Weighted Staffing Standards: The Reality

During a recent interview in the Pathfinder Compass newsletter (February 25th issue, page 4), when asked about the impact of the new Weighted Staffing Standards and how schools who were going to lose staff would be supported, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson said “First of all, I don’t know any school that’s losing significant staff. We have principals that work with instructional directors… There’s an opportunity to request a waiver or ask for mitigation funds… it’s really just the first step in the transition to a new system.”

And information on the district website, including a PowerPoint presentation of the features of the new funding system, delivers the message that the Weighted Staffing Standards change "Furthers equitable access to educational resources" and "Provides basic foundation for academic success for all students."

But those messages differ from the reality I’m hearing about at several schools, including Pathfinder. From what I have heard, the Education Directors are overwhelmed with mitigation requests for which they have insufficient budget. Most waiver requests (which ask to exchange one position granted in the process for another) are being denied.

And while some schools fared well in the process, others (particularly K-8 schools) are suffering, losing several staff members in the process and being forced to change program offerings and grade configurations.

For example, I learned from a Pathfinder parent that our upper grades, which in our small K-8 alternative school currently has 2 classes each for 6th 7th and 8th grade and a strong team-teaching approach, will, if the mitigation request isn’t funded, be forced to let go of one middle school teacher and create a multi-grade classroom. This is based on enrollment projections. But I’d be willing to predict that this kind of staffing change will only decrease Pathfinder 6-8 enrollment, not increase it.

I learned from a parent at another school (K-5), that a waiver request to exchange a counselor position for a lead teacher position (based on what the principal and teachers know about their student population and their needs) was denied. The school is now forced to let go of an instructional leader.

How does any of this improve teaching and learning in our district?

If you don’t already know what’s going on at your school, ask your principals and Building Leadership Team what is happening with the budget and staffing for next year under the Weighted Staffing Formula.

If you do already know, please post it here.


Anonymous said…
Thank you Beth for posting on this subject.

Our school is loosing an administrator,the reading specialist, half a librarian & nursing hours. Our middle class school PTSA will not be able to raise enough money to pay for these positions.

Despite having more than the 472 students required, the school was designated a middle size school.

We were told that that designation will not change even if we seat more kids than that.

Our principal has been told that there is a chance the situation could be mitigated this week & that possibility will be jeopardized if parents start complaining to board members.

Special ed & advanced learning parents are upset that they did not know about the reduced services at the school before registration closed.

Charlie Mas said…
Here's a funny thing: the 473 students needed to qualify for the increased staffing for big schools isn't headcount; it's AAFTE. In AAFTE, half-day kindergarteners each count as only .5 of a student.

Saddened didn't say which school suffered these losses, but the only K-5 elementary schools with more than 472 students at this year's October 1 enrollment count were Bryant (510), Kimball (507), Lowell (482), and Van Asselt (509). Some schools were close to that size. They were Coe (455), Hay (450), Lafayette (446), Laurelhurst (448), Maple (456), and Olympic View (440).
Anonymous said…
Does that mean there are no 'large' schools in the district?
Anonymous said…
The new standards are wreaking havoc at my son's school. We'll lose a reading specialist who helps with kids both below and above standard; a librarian, who has also been providing reading assistance; and a head teacher who has been critical to so many of the school's activities - a safe recess, a functional lunch period, teacher training. And the school's attempts to get mitigation have gotten nowhere.

It's made worse by the fact that the school is 100% full-day K - which means that the standards undercount the real population, and needs, of the school substantially.
Anonymous said…
One school is loosing a vice principal and half a librarian. My friend on the BLT understands that their status will be adjusted if they have more that 472 AAFTE enroll.

Will the district try to keep enrollment below 472 AAFTE at all of these larger schools to avoid putting anyone in the larger category?

Schools have tried to attract students to bring in more money under WSF. Is it now the goal for schools to keep the student population low so that scarce administrative staff can serve them? Should make for interesting tours next year.
Anonymous said…
I have heard that a number of schools had unexpected shortfalls. I have not heard of any waivers granted. It makes little sense that building leaders can't decide on their own whether the community needs a head teacher, counselor, librarian, etc.
Anonymous said…
Can someone report what the size ranges are for different types of schools?

Are schools being allowed to (reimbursed for if necessary) add portables to increase their enrollment? Are schools that have bought down being evaluated based on their capacity or their historical enrollment?

From what I hear (not a lot), our K-8 probably will not be losing anything, but we are comfortably above the large school mark (that's 500, I think) because we have always operated at contractual maximums and didn't buy down class size.
Beth Bakeman said…
I really am upset by the following quote from anonymous:

"Our principal has been told that there is a chance the situation could be mitigated this week & that possibility will be jeopardized if parents start complaining to board members."

Is someone at the district actually making these kinds of threats?
Anonymous said…
to Anon at 4:34pm

If you want to see how schools are placed in small, medium, large and the associated non-curriculumn resources, Google "seattle schools wss" to get where you need to go. I can't get the full link to post here.

There are some presentations that list out how many schools are estimated to fall into each category.

Strange thing is that it looks like most categories are expected to be balanced EXCEPT elementary schools. There are very few (if any) large schools based on AAFTE.

I am worried after reading this post. The PTA and BLT for our school were counting on waivers and mitigation to keep current successful programs AND talented staff.

What a mess. And I agree with Beth's sentiment regarding parents reaching out to the board - that it will jeopardize chances of success for waivers, etc.
Anonymous said…
Meant to say a the end that I agree with Beth in that it is REALLY concerning if threats are being made about contacting board members.
Anonymous said…
Does the media know about what type of SPS staffing cuts are in the works with this new weighted staffing standards? From these posts it seems huge, district wide. What about the teachers union, where are they in all of this? The board?
old salt said…
If cuts are being made at some schools, the money must be going to other schools. Is anyone gaining staff?

If this is a way to drive more dollars to low performing schools, it may be hard to protest.

I would like to see the numbers system wide.
Anonymous said…
WHITTIER: We were told last night that we would be gaining a councelor and that this new formula helps schools like ours that do not have many ESL learners and Reduced Lunch Qualified. This is at Whittier, but I am hesitant to believe this until all the paperwork is offically stamped.
Anonymous said…
An elementary school of 300 gets the same "non curriculumn" staffing allocation as a school of 474???

No extra resources needed for those 174 students?

Scenario: If it's Feb 15th, I know this info and have an incoming kindergartner, I'm going for the school with 301 AAFTEs.....
Anonymous said…
Am I reading this correct? Whittier (test-score queen, white, and well-funded) is gaining while we all loose. I think someone needs to go to the media!!!
Anonymous said…
From Lawton's newsletter this week:

"Lawton is budgeting for 415 students next year (current enrollment 390) and 18 classrooms. (Current classrooms, 17)

The district predicts more kindergartners and a slight decline in advancing classes.

District funds originally allowed for 17 classes, but Mr. Noh and staff members requested that funding for a part-time counselor instead be applied to a classroom position."

In a nutshell, it seems that Lawton needs 18 classrooms to accommodate all students, but the district is only funding 17 classrooms. I don't know where the additional .5 salary for the teacher will come from, but there is a special budget meeting planned for April 10th.
Anonymous said…
I am not sure 301 is a better number. We have about 400 students and we were told it would not be in our interest to try and get smaller-reduce how many K students we take-or we would loose staff with this new formula.
This came up as some parents were upset that the demographer made a mistake and sent too many kids to Whittier, and so some wanted to ask for less students this year.
I am really please with how Whittier always seems to handle what the District throws at us. Even though we had to many kids we split what would normally be one half day program into two very small K classes. This really benifited the children.
I am very lucky to be part of such a great school, but let's get this straight the District does not give us any favors. Our parents and staff work hard (and sometime disagree) on these issues and try and mitigate the conditions the District throws at us to serve the needs of our students.
Anonymous said…
Anonymous at 9am:

Re Whittier:

I can assure you we are not well funded. In fact, under Weighted Student - we received the lowest funding in the district per student. We lost our counselor, we lost our nurse time, our librian would have been lost - things that other, less "white, test score queen and well-funded" take for granted.

Bottom line:

Neither formula works well when the state is not funding education properly. The formula doesn't work well when we are keeping almost empty schools open, and busing students all over the city for free. We are all reduced to fighting over smaller and smaller pieces of the pie.
Beth Bakeman said…
Yes, agreed. Please don't start arguing amongst schools. I agree with Wendy that we need to see the numbers district-wide. We need to collect information to share with the Board, media and union, and that takes cooperation, not fighting between schools.

I certainly don't understand the total impact of these changes, but what I'm hearing definitely concerns me. My guess is that when all the data is analyzed and collected, it will be the schools with strong Education Directors (and/or good relationships between the principal and the Education Director) that will do well in the mitigation and waiver decisions. While the schools with weak Education Directors and/or poor relationships between the princiapl and the Education Director will lose out on mitigation and waiver request.

I have sent a link to this post to the Board, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, Carla Santorno, and several of my media contacts.

I'd encourage everyone to keep collecting and posting information, and then sharing it widely. Nothing makes me want to speak up more than being told to be quiet.
Anonymous said…
We lost our counselor.
Come on now. I'd much rather see a teacher at an elementary school than a counselor. Nice, but kind of a perk.
It's a problem at high schools when you fund a 1000 seat school at the same rate as the 1600+ schools. It's obviously not the same thing especially when the district has packed extra kids into some schools and not others.

I'm with Beth; nothing makes me want to speak out than being told to hush because we don't want to rock the boat or make anyone mad.
Anonymous said…
"Come on now. I'd much rather see a teacher at an elementary school than a counselor. Nice, but kind of a perk."

It depends on the school, the population and the counselor. We've used fundraising money to keep our counselor full time for years now. She makes a huge difference for kids who have behavior issues or aren't school ready in lower grades that really pays off later and makes large class sized bearable. And since we have middle schoolers too, it would be really hard to live without one.
Anonymous said…
anon at 10:04

"We lost our counselor.
Come on now. I'd much rather see a teacher at an elementary school than a counselor. Nice, but kind of a perk."

It isn't a perk if the counselor helps handle issues that disrupt the classroom. Or reach out to kids with family issues that impact their learning.

It isn't a perk if the Principal therefore has to spend a much higher % of their time dealing with "counselor issues" instead of being in the classroom to understand, support, lead, direct, advocate etc.

To me, this seems like a way to cut budgets overall without coming out and saying it..
Anonymous said…
How did the high schools come out?
Anonymous said…
I heard from a friend at Washington, that they did well in the new allocation. I don't have details.
Anonymous said…
Counselors are very, very important, and not a frill at any school. Whittier is actually gaining a half-time counselor under WSS, not a full-time one. Counselors can follow through with playground issues, lead social skills groups, and help with family support, all things that have been heaped on teachers along with changing curricular demands and increased administrative duties. Whittier is open to all students, and while it is majority white and (maybe) upper income, all of its students are not in this category. It is a public school.

The reality of WSS is that it may be good, may be bad, but has not been rolled out smoothly, planfully or appropriately. People should definitely know about how a school will be staffed before they make their school choice.

Anonymous said…
Wendy at 6:54 said "If cuts are being made at some schools, the money must be going to other schools. Is anyone gaining staff?"

I work in educational finance. Unfortunately there is no publicly available document (that I know of) that gives a comprehensive picture of school district staffing. The best source of publicly available information is Report 1159, from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) -- http://www.k12.wa.us/safs/reports.asp.

This report counts "Basic Education Funded Certificated Staff" (BEACIS). BEACIS is more than classroom teachers, it includes Librarians, Counselors, Nurses, School Psychologists, etc... But it does not count teachers (and other certificated professionals) that are funded from things like grants and I-728. I can probably find a formal definition of BEACIS somewhere if need be.

Anyway, the numbers speak for themselves (hopefully the format looks OK):

Year Students BEACIS
01-02 43,328 2,241
02-03 43,979 2,180
03-04 43,330 2,050
04-05 43,241 2,029
05-06 43,084 2,007
06-07 42,616 1,994
07-08 42,757 1,959

Reduction in students from 01-02: 1.34%
Reduction in BEACIS from 01-02: 14.40%

The average loss in staff per school over this time (94 schools) is 3 FTE's.

-Finance Guy
Beth Bakeman said…
Finance Guy -- thanks for posting this data! My husband was asking a similar question. He wanted to know if there is any change in the total amount of staff funding in the district this year under WSS as compared with last year under WSF.

Does anyone know?
Anonymous said…
Finance guy - Do your data include positions funded from local levies, and if not, does this omission help to explain the decline? Also, the count of students you cite is lower than district figures - why is that?
Anonymous said…
Update from saddened

Some things have changed since my first post. And I got some things wrong.

Staffing is not looking as dire as it did at first. Our principal & BLT have been trying fit our current model of staffing into the new formula. They are getting help from the district staff. They are still working on it, but there will not be program cuts.

I checked with a few more people about the no complaining to board members that I heard about. There I misunderstood.

We are strongly encouraged to take our WSS budget issues to our board members after the BLT figures out what they are. They want us to go with specific information about the cuts at our school. So if we get the librarian back through mitigation, we can concentrate on telling the board about other lost staff. Evidently those things should be more clear next week.

This does not seem to be any less work for principals than the WSF.
Anonymous said…
Beth - to find out about District-wide staffing for next year you need to work directly with the folks at Seattle Schools. Please note that the community has every right to receive this information (doesn't Director Martin-Morris have somethig on his blog about community engagement...). But it is important to remember that Seattle Schools had no problem cutting certificated staff every year using WSF. So I don't think WSS is really just a way to keep people in the dark while they reduce staffing next year.

Mad Valley Parent - There are several different ways to measure enrollment. The numbers I provided are from the Report 1159. If you look at the OSPI web site you can find Seattle's enrollment numbers on Report 1251. The reason the numbers are different is that Seattle uses the September enrollment count for Report 1159. The number typically bandied about as enrollment comes from the October student count. It is actually quite revealing that Seattle chooses to use September. Basically, it means Seattle Schools is close to the State-mandated minimum "required" number of certificated staff.

BEACIS staff are people charged to state programs 01 (basic ed) 31 (vocational ed) and 97 (district-wide support). Last year this accounted for 280 million of the District's 460 million dollars in expenditures. Funding for these positions came mostly from the State (202 million) and "other resources" i.e. local levies (76 million). Not included in BEACIS is special ed, comensatory ed, and things like transportation and school lunch. You can find more data on the Report F-196. Of particular interest to you may be the "Resource to Program Expenditures Report" (page 26).

-Finance Guy
Anonymous said…
Please help me find a way to help my school!!!
How do I as a parent (who is very connected with staff) find out why when the budget was done it looked like we would loose our librarian. (Who I have been told takes a hugh amount of the budget.) The PTA was asked to use auction funds to save her. Then they came back and asked us for more funds. But they won't tell us what she makes. I thought it could be a great deal since she is qualified to be Principal and has a great deal of year in SPS.
I have now found out that some staff members didn't feel this was in the best interest of the school either and tried to speak out-some of the staff didn't think we needed to pay for a vice principal at school where she doesn't use the title of vice principal. It says we only have a principal.
Is there anything we small band (less than ten in the know) can do to at least disclose what she makes before we the PTA members are asked to give some of our auction dollars.
Anonymous said…
Anon 8:43,
All SPS employees are public servants, and thus the salaries are available for public scrutiny. I don't know what anyone could mean by a "huge" amount for a librarian; librarians are certificated and thus get the same as any teacher. (maybe the meant she/he has been around too long, and thus gets a bigger salary, and they could find a someone fresh out of college who's cheaper! Just kidding, bad joke)
They might have meant that it was a huge expense as a librarian is not a classroom teacher, and some would consider this frivolous....not me, tho'! Librarians lead all sorts of interesting things, provide deep and substantive research skills and resources to go along with them...and since they AREN'T classroom teachers, often can develop a more balanced relationship with students because they are not in such a power relationship, and hence can be "a caring adult" without the class stuggle (no pun intended)
As for vice principal, this is up to your school, or was...Some schools find they can make do with a "House administrator", which is a certificated position, not admin - sort of a grey area: It's often used to save money but HA has to do the work of an AP...further, HA is a cert, so SHOULD be a rank-and-file union member, but since they are admin (but not really) they exist in the middle somewhere...
Anonymous said…
It might be a 'huge amount' because benefits have to be covered as well? Our parents have been paying about $40K per year to pay for about half of our counselor, but I doubt her salary accounts for much more than half of that. Do you have a parent rep on the BLT? They should have seen the budget details.
Anonymous said…
Benefits and pay are all part of the package. Say a cert (librarian OR counselor) gets paid 45,000. The cost to the District is more like 70,000 because of the benefits package.

If a librarian's (or a counselor's)pay is "huge", it's not because of benefits because all certs ge those. The person (people) who think it's huge must be referring to some sort of perceived "value" (too much money for too little benefit, tho' of course I don't beleive that myself!)
Former BLT rep 9:55 - If your counselor was 1.0 FTE (full time) and had been in district for, say, twenty years or so, their pay package (with benefits) could easily approach 80,000 per year, so your 40,000 contribution was indeed half, and no, they don't get paid only 20,000 (half of the 40,000)!
Good educators cost quite a bit. While it's common to consider educators underpaid, and they are, compared to Seattle's cost of living, educators Do cost quite a bit, certs probably 60,000 on average (6 years cert = 42,000 per year + TRI money of about 7,000 plus benefits...)and parapros/classified probably 45,000 per year...
Anonymous said…
A forwarded e-mail from an alternative school principal:

"Today the instructional directors, Carla Santorno, Don Kennedy, Linda Sebring, and Duggan Harman met to discuss building mitigation needs. I’m sorry that we were unable to allocate additional funds to your school.

The needs presented were substantial and greatly exceeded the funds we have available to mitigate school staffing.

Total amount of requested mitigation was $2,327,381
The total mitigation fund was $1,300,000
Amount reserved for fall mitigation was 8 FTE or $648,280
Amount remaining for mitigation today was $651,720

Please know that requests were granted based on prioritized need and impact on students. Our highest priority was to fund schools which because of a WSS model anomaly were unable to implement a school program.

If you have further questions regarding this decision, please refer them to your Instructional Director."
Anonymous said…
It seems fair that a school who doesn't need a vice-principal shouldn't have to pay more for their Librarian-is the Librarian a warm people person? The Librarian I know who has much years in the system and was our interm principal is not good with kids. She likes reading books and she does this well.
But so do book loving interms; we would save a ton of money and maybe get a full time councelor. This is something our school really needs. The Librarian's warmness with children may be one reason why we need the councelor????
dan dempsey said…
Total amount of requested mitigation was $2,327,381
The total mitigation fund was $1,300,000

Seems that if the SPS abandons the folly of academic coaches for teachers we would have loads of dollars available to mitigate and then go on and significantly reduce class size.

Take a guess which district has decided that academic coaches for teachers is not a worthwhile bang for the buck?

If you guessed Charleston SC you are correct.

Perhaps as soon as Dr MG-J leaves Seattle, we will be able to figure this out for Seattle. Hopefully we don't all kill each other in the fight over table scraps before she leaves.

I am still looking for data that shows this academic coaching for teachers is an effective use of dollars in a state that has extremely large class sizes already.

It appears that we are on our way to academic bankruptcy.

Perhaps we need to adopt better math texts so the administration will not need the Math Police (coaches) to enforce all the rules.

I hope there is a better use for academic coaches in Literacy than in Math. If there is that is fabulous as we are only throwing away $2 million annually rather than $4 million. I think it is a 50-50 split on the coaching dollars at this this time.

It appears that the "sham" data driven decisions in Seattle always drives fewer teachers, fewer classrooms, and fewer schools. Do you suppose that may be a precursor of fewer students? Who leaves this district and why?

The Phi Delta Kappa audit reveals this school district does not know what they are doing. This revelation by professionals came as news to few in this city.

It is unlikely that the Phi Delta Kappa information will lead to an effective intervention.
Anonymous said…
One thing most folks are missing is that some schools are losing staff because they are losing students between this year and next. Take Pathfinder for example. This year they have 400, next year they are anticipated to have about 350. When you have less kids you have less staff. It isn't the fault of one model vs another.
Anonymous said…
Anon 8:13
Yes, under the WSF formula, if a school lost students it lost staff. I'm not sure what happens under WSS.
It is a bad formula that automatically reduces funding if students don't enroll that year. It sets up a death spiral, sometimes unrecoverable...
Here's an extreme example:
Any School, Seattle, ten years ago: Fewer students, so they lose their music program. No music, no students the following year. They cut some art. No music, no art, no students. Cut electives. No students (especially no students who are able to migrate due to parent involvement, so school is left with children of either a) parents who care, or b) parents who aren't around to move child.
WASL scores plummet. Students leave. Staff drops. WASL scores plummet....
R.I.P. school...
A Dangerous formula, sets school up to become a WASL factory, then a corpse.
Beth Bakeman said…
Anonymous at 8:13,

Are you saying that the only schools losing staff through the WSF changes are schools that are projected to have lower enrollments?

(I assume you are a district staff person, which is why I am asking you this question. These are the kinds of answers that I am looking for.)

And although I am a Pathfinder parent, I don't know the particulars of the Pathfinder projected enrollment decline. But from the district perspective, if you want to have a K-8 school in West Seattle, then you need to staff the 6-8 portion appropriately. Cutting staff means cutting programs which leads to further declines in enrollment.
Anonymous said…
I was told that the District originally planned to staff K-8s just like large K-5s but got talked out of that and rearranged the formula (e.g., to include a FT counselor).
Anonymous said…
What will happen when enrollment numbers come in that are significantly different than the projections? Or if differing numbers of students are seated in Sept?

Will funding be adjusted?
Anonymous said…
If it is true that the only cuts at specific schools are following dropping enrollment at those schools, then I would like to see a district wide comparison of total $ per building under WSF & WSS.
Anonymous said…
The many districts serving diverse populations manage their budgets using a combo of Weighted Staffing Standards in FTE's and layer additional supports for special programs or programs for higher needs students including special education, English as a second language, free and reduced.... and school improvement plans for underperforming schools.

Because school budgets all over the country have tanked... budgeting has become more process driven and not necessarily student- centered.

What really will come into play is the district's issues surrounding equity. This budgeting move is a step to deal with equity and foreshadows future possibilities:
- Schools, high schools included, may be required to all offer same basic courses and same level of instructional integrity for equity between schools. (Curriculum pacing guides and tighter curriculum controls- more centralized which is not all bad.)
- Schools with unique programs may cut programs to make their schools look more alike to the schools without such programs.
- This Weighted Staffing standards may not be easily done using a school of choice configuration because of equity. (Attending your neighborhood school may be the outcome.)
- If school of choice is not affected for the majority, it may be a diminished opportunity for those higher needs students who will be required to attend schools with existing resources... equity plays here again.

A prediction: This budget move is one step in a series of steps to level the playing fields forcing equity among schools and thus triggering an end to school of choice!

Sometimes School Choice thrives for all the wrong reasons.
Anonymous said…
- Schools with unique programs may cut programs to make their schools look more alike to the schools without such programs.

If this happens, my family will be looking to private schools that continue to offer such programs. That would be a shame.
LMM said…
I am concerned that there isn't mention of how the school district rely's on a school PTSA's to help fund library's, art, etc.

Our school, Maple Elementary was going to hire a reading specialist and had the headcount (# of students) to do so until the district rolled out Weighted Staffing Standards. Principle expressed concern about keeping the librarian position full time, and this is a school with 463 students!

More has to be done and I am willing to help, someone please post an action plan.
Anonymous said…
I am still looking for data that shows this academic coaching for teachers is an effective use of dollars in a state that has extremely large class sizes already.

I, for one, would love to see some academic coaching for teachers at my school. Teachers sitting in a room for 15, 20, 30+ years definitely need an eyeball. And no, the principals never seem to do this.
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