What is best for low achieving students

An article in the Seattle Times quotes Eric Pettigrew (D-37) as saying "smaller school districts would improve performance for low-achieving children". I'm dying to know what data he has to support that contention. Or could it be that Mr. Pettigrew made the claim without any data to support it?
I thought about checking the data myself to test the claim. I went to the OSPI web site to review the student achievement (MSP pass rate) data for districts of various sizes. But as I did so, I realized that I had no way of determining, from that data, how the performance of low-achieving students had changed. Yes, I could compare the 2013 5th grade pass rates with the 2012 4th grade pass rates, but that wouldn't allow me to determine which of the former 4th graders accounted for which of the 5th grade scores. I couldn't parse out the change for the low performing students from a previous year.

That got me wondering how Representative Pettigrew did it. Actually, it got me suspecting that he didn't. I don't think he has any data to support his claim. That means that Mr. Pettigrew is likely proposing an extreme and expensive action  - splitting Seattle Public Schools into two districts - to achieve a specific purpose without any evidence whatsoever that the action will, in fact, achieve the purpose. That would be pretty messed up.

So let's see the data, Mr. Pettigrew. Show us why you believe that smaller school districts improve the performance of low-achieving students. Please, please, please, show us the basis for this claim. Because, if you don't have any data to support this claim, then why are you making the claim and why are you proposing this action?


Anonymous said…
Doing a quick search, I found a study or two (many, actually, from credible sources)... And many of the conclusions stated that smaller district size along with additional variables such as smaller school and class sizes especially in the early grades lead to improved student performance.

Perhaps there is a plan within the plan to decrease the sizes of the schools and classes as well?

Me thinks that this is called "cherry picking" the data.

Anonymous said…
Has anyone ever tried turning around the SS SPS? It takes about 40,000 miles and 20 years.

Managing change in a small district would be easier and faster, plus we should be able to generate some constructive competition between the districts for students.

You wont have to move out of the City to have a choice of districts.

Split Now
Anonymous said…
Also, its much harder to steal from smaller budgets. The SPS budget is over ONE BILLION DOLLARS per year with many line items of "other", that's easy pickins for those inclined.

The auditors never leave JSCEE and actually touch any of the $30,000 projectors or other missing equipment.

The Sup S\B able to visit each school for 4 hours every 6 months.

Geter Done
Anonymous said…
Pettigrew doesn't need data. He just pulls stuff out of his arse and the Seattle Times dutifully repeats it without checking facts. Same goes for the WA legislature. Data only matters when you need to punish teachers, schools, or districts and demand outcome-based "accountability" without doing anything to help with the inputs, like FULLY FUNDING K-12.

Anonymous said…
What would be an appropriate amount of funding for SPS ?

SPS budget is :

Total Expenditures $912,569,384.00

Would you like 2 billion, 3 billion

How much is enough.

Other PeoplesMoney
I would agree; I don't believe the money is being spent in the right way.

BUT our state doesn't even fund to the national average. There is no getting around that.

As well, those states that fund at the top? Have the top scores.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Charlie Mas said…
Other PeoplesMoney asks "How much is enough."

This is a popular rhetorical question for anti-education advocates. They ask it thinking that there is no answer.

But there is. The state legislature defined it. The state legislature said how much is enough, so the anti-education crowd can stop asking this foolish, ill-informed question.
Charlie Mas said…
Split Now says that it takes a lot of time and effort to effect change in Seattle Public Schools.

That's true, but it isn't because the district is so big. It's because of the district's culture.

Geter Done says that the size of the budget makes corruption and theft easier. No. It's the culture that makes corruption and theft easier. Small districts - heck, even charter schools, which are one-school districts - have problems with theft and corruption. You should hear some of the complaints from people in small, rural districts.

Also, you already don't have to move out of the city for a choice of districts. Lots of Seattle families send their kids to schools in Highline, Renton, Shoreline, and Vashon.
Anonymous said…

Dividing the school district in half is a move in the wrong direction, paving the way for privitizers to move in with charter schools, tfa, more high-stakes testing and one-size-fits-all curricula. Read:


Anonymous said…
I would bet that small class sizes would have a bigger effect on kids than a smaller district.

joanna said…
Everytime I see someone post a comment anywhere about research demonstrating smaller districts are better, I never see a post of the source. I think we would all like to judge for ourselves the credibility of such sources. There are many articles posted about consolidation and the only discussion, I could find was one talking about the Broad Foundation on districts over 200,000 or 100, 000 students. I have problems with governance here and would like to see one or two of the school board members elected totally at-large to make more of the total board accountable to all voters. So far, I do not perceive that any of these new schemes about dividing the district or appointing board members would be very helpful or any research that demonstrates the effectiveness of such schemes.
Ragweed said…
One clarification about Seattle School Board elections - we have an odd combination of district and at-large elections for school board. Board members are first voted on in the primary in their district. Then the top two go to the general election for an all city vote.
Ragweed said…
And as an aside - how many sock puppets can dance on the head of a pin?
Charlie Mas said…
The sock puppet question is a good one.

Perhaps the way to improve student outcomes isn't rooted in the governance of the district. Perhaps it isn't rooted in the size of the district. Perhaps it isn't even rooted in the ownership or governance of the school.

Maybe - just maybe - the way to improve student outcomes will require changes in what happens inside the classrooms and improvements in the students' support system outside the classroom.

Then again, maybe not. Maybe we should continue to focus our efforts on splitting the district, having the mayor appoint school board directors, and on charter schools.
To note, the mayoral appt bill did not pass out of committee.

The last action noted on the splitting of the district bill (2048) is on Feb. 20th where it was referred to the Rules 2 Review. I suspect it will not make it out.

Ragweed said…
An interesting thought on the district split - there would be a total of 10 school board members in both districts. What impact would this have on public participation? More opportunities for grassroots candidates to get on the board? More opportunities for corporate money to stack the deck?

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