Thursday, October 9, 2014

School Cliques: How to be Popular?

I tend to be a practical person who isn't in to style, fads, sports, arts, etc.  And I have never felt a desire to act differently or dress up to impress people.  Therefore I need your assistance.

I got these images from the RDale Demographics presentation.  They definitely show that the demographics of our student population with regard to affluence are changing very quickly.  Now that would not be a problem except that low income is the factor that almost always is directly correlated to poor academic performance, struggling schools, falling property values, higher crime, etc.

Now there are many factors that are driving this change. (housing stock, neighbors, businesses, stores, crime rate, schools, aging community, etc)  For this discussion, let's focus on schools since that is why I typically lose my younger neighbors when their oldest child is ready to go to kindergarten. Remember, I live near 494 & Rockford Rd, so we have newer houses, businesses, safe streets, etc. Yet still they run.

With this in mind, what can our community do to stop my young smart well to do neighbors from selling their homes and running when their children approach school age?  I understand Numbers Guy and R Five's views that the money needs to be spent wisely, however the reality is that we also need to be judged as modern, safe, effective, and have lots of offerings.  How do we become a "Popular District" again and therefore a "Popular Community"?  Are we willing to invest to attain that status?





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49 comments:

Laurie said...

I don't know of anyone who has left the district in which I live for a city with better schools. Most parents I know have secondary students. Their children are tracked into honors classes in middle school and AP classes in high school and parents seem satisfied with the schools. Our low income demographic is like 30% in the high school and higher in middle and elementary schools. We have 1 elementary that has a much more affluent demographic than our other 2 schools.

Anyhow, I agree that funding schools to try to help them compete with neighboring schools is smart for both selfish and altruistic reasons. One's home value will likely be affected more than the amt of tax dollars spent or saved.

jerrye92002 said...

What you've got here is a real vicious circle. The people paying the higher taxes have higher expectations of the schools and a greater mobility. So raising taxes without a clear and substantial improvement in whatever these folks see as a "good school" is going to leave you with fewer people paying the taxes and a more difficult student population both. The only way out of this vicious circle is to keep taxes and spending in check and "bootstrap" the schools to produce a much better result, quickly. It can be done. Whether your school district has the freedom, the will and the ability to do it may be questionable. But now is the time to ask, isn't it? What they're doing isn't working.

John said...

Jerry,
I do agree that it is a vicious circle, but I think you have your causation backwards.

I am pretty sure none of these folks are bothered by the taxes in our community. The taxes are a lot lot higher in their new homes.

John said...

I am thinking it is kind of like a church. The church always needs to balance good works against having facilities, programs, etc that keep people coming and giving...

jerrye92002 said...

"The taxes are a lot lot higher in their new homes."

You would think that, but because of the perverse nature of the way the state property tax laws work, it's not necessarily so. Property tax levies for schools are assessed "per pupil," not on a millage (% of home value) basis. Therefore, if property values go up because of "good schools" (and they do), the property taxes go DOWN. If people move out for better schools, home values drop and taxes go UP (relative), without any extra levy. My preference has always been that these levies should be on millage so that good schools get rewarded with extra revenue (and are protected from inflation)-- an incentive system that supposedly would solve the problem you present-- but I'm not sure that's quite "fair" to the district that is already behind the curve; it might be a "rich get richer" sort of effect.

But it's also not true because it isn't the amount of the tax that matters to these people-- they are willing to pay more for that "good school," INCLUDING the cost of a new house! Like it or not, it seems that the good school has to come first. If a few extra bucks can create that perception (and presumably the reality), turning it around from what it obviously is, that's great. But I've seen too many school districts that spend more to get less, and the vicious spiral continues until you become Minneapolis. Better to be St. Paul, at least.

John said...

For the discussions sake, let's ignore how it is paid for and how efficiently it is executed.

What would draw the smart and well to do to a school system and it's community?

I think the saying "birds of a feather flock together" seems appropriate here.

jerrye92002 said...

All I know is that real estate agents throughout the country know that "good schools" is a major, if not THE major, selling point for homes. So, there must be some way by which parents know and determine what a "good school" is and what it is not. My guess is that there needs to be something outstanding (above average, or at least better than where they are) about the achievement level of the kids there, be it academic, athletic, arts or, most likely, all of the above. What's the secret?

It seems to me that school districts which concentrate on the inputs (that they do not control)-- how much can we spend and where do these kids come from-- are always far behind those that concentrate on the outputs (that they DO control)-- where should we be spending our existing money to get the best overall results. That simple mindset change, IMHO, costs nothing and changes everything.

John said...

Personally I think they look at the percentage of students receiving Free and Reduced lunch. Then the higher the rate, the less they will pay.

And somewhere around 30% many choose to avoid the district all together.

Can you think of a school or district where this does not apply?

jerrye92002 said...

Any district with less than 10% FRL, I can't imagine it being a factor, and I really don't believe it is a factor at all in which homes people with the money for "school choice" choose. If there were an excellent inner city school, of course, the people that would want it and choose it it would already be there and wouldn't need the new house. I don't think I've ever seen a real estate offering that mentions "not many kids on FRL."

John said...

Realtor speak for low FRR / low ELL is Good Schools.

Laurie said...

If i had a young family and was shopping for a home, the first thing I would do is use MDE school report card to compare schools within and across districts in the part of the metro I was considering. I would also look at demographics. Demographics are a pretty good indicator of both behavior and academic achievement. I might consider schools up to 50% FRL (the homes in those neighborhoods might be more in my price range)

John said...

What would you look for at MDE?

Laurie said...

I would look at test scores and demographics and mostly for schools that test well in spite of high FRL rate. I would definitely take a look at science scores to see if the school teaches anything other than math and reading, which is all we do at my school.

My school,btw , is included on the worst schools list which just came out. These scjools are labeled priority schools (lowest 5%) and get intervention from the state. Maybe I will share a little bit about how much and what kind of help the state gives as the year goes on.

jerrye92002 said...

"Realtor speak for low FRR / low ELL is Good Schools. "

I see. Demography is destiny, again? It simply isn't possible for poor black kids to learn anything, so the question again is why try? Why not let them sit at home and watch TV, and when they turn 18 we hand them a check for the $250,000 we would have wasted on their education?

jerrye92002 said...

Laurie, if you could keep us posted that would be great. I always wonder why, if the public schools KNEW how to produce high-achieving students, why they haven't done it until now?

John said...

I believe everyone can learn, however one has to start real early with the unlucky kids. And it requires working with the parents.

Unfortunately Conservatives and the people who need this help are very resistant.

Besides, the bureaucrats and unions would make it too complicated and expensive.

John said...

By the way, we keep investing the money for the sake of those who choose to escape their circumstances and community.

Some will continue the cycle of poverty, but some will escape by using the free education gift that the other citizens have given them.

"You can give a horse water, but you can not force them to drink."

John said...

By the way, I am back in sunny Shanghai. So my replies may be a bit sporadic or absent.

jerrye92002 said...

"Some will continue the cycle of poverty, but some will escape by using the free education gift that the other citizens have given them."

You presume that our "investment" in education actually DELIVERS education to those that want it, and it is at least partly true that, even in the worst schools, those who truly want an education will get it. But I guarantee you that it will nonetheless, lacking something extraordinary happening, be of lesser quality than what a good school would deliver for that same student. Every statistic we have shows it. Our fourth graders are better than the international competitors' average. Our middle schoolers are below average, and our high school kids next to last. The longer our kids stay in school the further behind they get, and it's not right. Sure, our best and brightest compete well with about anybody, but the rest of our kids get left behind. That simply MUST be the fault of the schools' practices, not the amount of money we spend on them.

Remember how hard the Pawlenty proposal to mandate spending 70% of school funding "in the classroom" was fought? Many of the best schools in the State were meeting that criteria, but the worst schools claimed it was impossible. I think I see a connection. Spend what you want, but if it doesn't reach the kids or if it goes for something besides educating, they fail.

Sean said...

"Remember how hard the Pawlenty proposal to mandate spending 70% of school funding "in the classroom" was fought? Many of the best schools in the State were meeting that criteria, but the worst schools claimed it was impossible."

No, actually, that wasn't the complaint at all. Minneapolis and St. Paul schools would have met Pawlenty's 70% criteria. It's largely rural schools (who tend to have much larger transportation budgets on a per pupil basis) that would have a problem meeting the 70%.

It should also be pointed out that such mandates fly directly in the face of the "local control" that Republicans love to talk about but rarely follow through on.

jerrye92002 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jerrye92002 said...

And by the way, my statement that "more money produces poorer results" isn't conjecture, it's mathematical fact.

In Minnesota, among 300+ public school districts and for math achievement, the trendline equation is: Basic skills math score = 50.587 - .0015 * (per pupil spending in $). In other words, on average, the more money spent, the poorer the results.

jerrye92002 said...

" Minneapolis and St. Paul schools would have met Pawlenty's 70% criteria."

That was not my recollection. I know about the rural schools having the difficulty, and I understand economies of scale that the rural schools wouldn't have, but I can't believe Mpls is that efficient. Any evidence you can point me to?

Sean said...

"About a fifth of Minnesota school districts currently spend at least 70 percent of education funding on classroom expenses, according to the Education Department. That includes the three largest districts of Anoka-Hennepin, Minneapolis and St. Paul."

http://www.mprnews.org/story/2006/09/05/seventypercent

jerrye92002 said...

Thank you. I stand corrected. But there is more than one way to look at this. One is that the large school districts spend twice as much as the rural districts do, per pupil, and therefore the 30% or less they spend on administration is, in dollars, 50% higher per pupil (and per classroom) than what the rural district spends. There is some economy of scale, but it's not as high as it should be, IMO.

The other approach is to look at it as dollars per point of achievement, and even granting that inner city schools have the higher challenges, the state school aid formula supposedly fully "equalizes" funding to account for that, yet results are just awful. I would happily give up the regulations, incentives and disincentives on the financial side to get some sort of results requirement.

In other words, to the basic question, if more spending made the schools popular, parents should be flocking to the Mpls schools rather than fleeing in droves. It matters what the money is spent ON.

Laurie said...

here are a couple of related links I came across today that I found interesting:

Republicans Are Far More Critical of American Schools Than Democrats

US public schools are better than they've ever been

jerrye92002 said...

Laurie, thanks for those links. The first one, of course, I dismissed at the title because I know why. The Democrats are a wholly-owned subsidiary of the teachers unions who, despite their constant trope about caring for the kids, don't. And the Democrats are all too willing to simply throw more money at the "problem" without any accountability for results.

The second one, though, surprised me. I expected at least some statistical legerdemain demonstrating the thesis, but instead all I get is an opinion poll and a lot of arm-waving argumentation. Of COURSE people think there schools are doing well, because if they didn't they would have to admit that they are condemning their own children to substandard schools, and that they don't have a choice in that matter. Nobody wants to face that combination of failure and impotence. So, let's admit the schools are failing and it is the SCHOOLS that are failing, and do something about it. Throwing more money down that rathole without some substantive changes in how the money is spent is what made these schools "unpopular," and only a radical upward shift in outcomes is going to make them popular again.

John said...

Rep More Critical

John said...

I liked this statement from the 2nd link. Now how to do it is significant challenge.

"I think if what they were saying is there's an achievement gap, there's always been an achievement gap, and it's narrowing but we need to think about why does the gap exist, and let's address those root causes — that would make sense as a conversation. I don't think their hearts are in the wrong place, I think their heads are in the wrong place. For a lot of kids who don't score well on these tests, you go back six generations and you have people in bondage. That's a powerful explanation for why there's an achievement gap. Or you say, let's take a look, correlation is not causation, but let's take a look at the correlation between achievement scores and poverty. There's a really big correlation.




We've got to do something about poverty, we've got to do something about systemic racism — that, to me, is a conversation that makes a lot of sense. Rather than saying let's look at the schools where low-income kids of color go, where the scores are low, and let's do a fake experiment and look at the scores at high-scoring low-income kids of color, and let's look at what their schools do. That's a much less daunting conversation to have. That's a conversation people are much more willing to have.




And if you just look at schools, there's a lot beneath the surface — that maybe they're all low-income kids of color, but they have very involved parents. Or that they don't offer special education or services for English language learners. Things like that aren't really visible when you're just looking at the things they do."

John said...

"look at the scores at high-scoring low-income kids of color, and let's look at what their schools do."

What do we know they do:
- Parents and Students must pass criteria and interview before child is accepted into the program.

- Child can be expelled if child or parents fail to fulfill their commitment to the program.

- Teachers are not typically protected by Union work rules, tenure rules, etc, they must perform well or they are cut.

Other ideas?

John said...

A few more came to me:
- Administrators are not typically protected by long term contracts with large early termination fees, they must perform well or they are cut.

- The children in high risk homes, along with their parents are engaged as soon as possible.
HCZ Programs

jerrye92002 said...

"What do we know they do:"

Really? Only schools which do all of these really good things (but departures from the SOP of public schools generally) can succeed? Then how do you account for the success of many suburban schools? I saw no contracts, no interviews. I'll agree those things might help, but keeping out some kids doesn't automatically mean the rest of them get educated. Explain how some teachers get good results, while the teacher in the next classroom, in the same subject, does not?

Nothing wrong with some of that, and in fact my proposal for universal vouchers involves something like that-- parents can take their voucher to any school, but the school does not have to accept the voucher for a kid that turns out to be (discipline-wise) a real "problem child."

You still need to acknowledge that schools must deliver a better product than they currently do, because they have many [large] "pockets" of dismal performance. The brightest kids, the ones with all the advantages except parents rich enough to move, are still graduating far below kids from other schools. That MUST be the fault of the school.

Let's try this one more time. Have you EVER seen a school ask for a levy, or for more state money, with a PROMISE that they will improve academic results by x% for y% of the kids? Why not, if money is the answer?

John said...

Fingers in the dike.

I think the referendums are about doing the best they can with what they are given.

As HCZ learned when they started, school is just part of the pipeline. Without Family Education and Early Childhood education, it is difficult or impossible to succeed.

HCZ Secrets

I Diane and Geoffrey are correct.

The public schools, their bureaucracy and their Union rules kill efficiency and effectiveness.

Not dealing with poverty, incompetent / uneducated parents and early education dooms most schools and children to failure.

jerrye92002 said...

"I think the referendums are about doing the best they can with what they are given."

No, If they were doing the best with what they were given they would NOT be asking for additional money. If this additional money will result in "improvements" to the education delivered, it can be justified to the public and should be approved ONLY on that basis.

"The public schools, their bureaucracy and their Union rules kill efficiency and effectiveness.

Not dealing with poverty, incompetent / uneducated parents and early education dooms most schools and children to failure."

Well, which is it? Either the public schools are failing because of their own dead weight, or they don't have a chance because of poor parenting. I insist that ALL children can learn, given an effective school, and that therefore schools must be denied the excuse for their ongoing failures and forced to deliver or disband. And if, as you say, these kids can NOT learn, then let's simply give up and save the vast sums of money now being spent pointlessly trying to educate them. Your pick.

John said...

"Either the public schools are failing because of their own dead weight, or they don't have a chance because of poor parenting."

Now you didn't really just write that.... The idea that this is a one cause problem is just foolish.

We have come up with dozens of contributing factors over the years. Each of them are responsible for some portion of the ongoing problem.

We spend those vast sums of money so those that really want to escape their current situation have chance to do so. There is no good way to force them to leave their comfort zone.

jerrye92002 said...

OK, so which of those factors can more education spending actually address? And how? And how many can the schools address by changing their approach, with or without additional money? Why haven't they done those things?

John said...

Legal and Union constraints tie their hands in oh so many ways...

Why do you think they spend so much on Special Ed?

jerrye92002 said...

I will agree with you. So, the first step in improving the schools is to get rid of the union, or at minimum institute performance pay and retention, rather than union rules? Is that possible, or do we need to start a war? Pretty sure if a foreign power was doing to our kids what these public schools are doing, the long guns would come out.

John said...

I really don't know how to persuade citizens that Public Employee Unions are costing tax payers a small fortune in excessively high compensation, reduced efficiency, lower effectiveness, lost excellent employee candidates, etc.

So many people believe that employees are owed job security and higher compensation just because they have years served or more education. The idea that a 5 year highly effective Teacher with just a BS could be paid more than a 25 year moderately effective Teacher with a PHD seems to make their brains explode.

The well being of those poor and moderate performers is apparently much more important to them than the well being and future of the unlucky students and tax payers.

jerrye92002 said...

I keep looking forward to the time-- soon, I hope-- when the competition to the public schools becomes so prevalent and pronounced that the publics collapse of their own dead weight. When it becomes obvious to everyone that charters, privates, voucher schools, online and home schools do better for less money, something will have to change. I much prefer having government force that change immediately, say through universal vouchers, rather than destroying another generation of school kids, but the delight of watching them sink in their own mess is tempting if that's all I can get.

John said...

Maybe you should start a charter that can work these miracles for less with all types of Parents and Students?

So far I have not found a true "all kids welcome charter" that truly out performs the publics.

Though the online schools may succeed in some ways. Of course, they may not be a good fit for many children.

jerrye92002 said...

Maybe I should, but I'm not the one being paid great gobs of money to educate these kids, and insisting that I'm doing a great job of it.

I think the "takes all kids" is part of the problem. All kids are not suited to a single, one-size-fits-all education model. That's one reason online and computer-aided instruction works so well, because it's individually tailored. But you're referring to the theory that there are some significant number of kids that simply cannot learn, and I simply reject that notion. I think the lack of parental involvement in the failing public schools is the fault of the schools, not the parents. No parent wants to admit that they are sending their kids to a substandard school and that they have no other choice. Given a real choice, most of those "failing parents," I am convinced, will cease to fail.

The problem remaining is twofold: first, the "choice" school must employ a much more effective learning environment, and second, allowance must be made for the years of "damage" done to the kids in the public schools they leave behind. There aren't many good examples of that combination.

As for those few kids that are simply disruptive, regardless, my concept of universal vouchers would include the authority of the school to refuse to accept a voucher for the chronically disruptive child and recommend placement in a more costly (cost borne by the parent) specialized school. That financial penalty might create some parental "incentive" to instill discipline. These cases would be rare, if the learning environment were there.

jerrye92002 said...

Ah, the evidence!
http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/281191231.html

It appears you are correct, that poor academic performance correlates with poverty. I am correct in that poverty and skin color does not CAUSE the poor academic performance. We'll see if Mpls improves through these meager steps, or not, but they get credit for taking steps in the right direction, over union objections.

John said...

Star Tribune Article

John said...

What is odd is how did they do this?

"Minneapolis Public Schools fired more than 200 teachers last year over performance issues, more than any other year in recent history."

Or did they just get rid of non-tenured personnel?

Of course poverty and skin color does not cause poor academic success. They did not make the G2A Causes List. However a lot of beliefs, behaviors, and limited capabilities that cause Parents to be poor, also cause their children to have a hard time in school.

jerrye92002 said...

Obviously, your "causes list" is missing something, since the multivariate analysis I requested shows that the number one predictor of academic success is a "good" teacher, and the corollary that 3 "bad" teachers in a row dooms the child to failure. Since the poor teachers, as found in this study, are concentrated in the poor neighborhoods, the odds of failure go way up.

You raise an interesting question about how the union could allow this to happen. I have trouble believing that they really care about getting bad teachers out of the classroom.

John said...

I am more worried that they are dismissing the non-tenured teachers when I see statement like this.

"District officials would not talk about dismissals at specific campuses.

“We catch them early,” Nordgren said. “We don’t let them go 20 years being ineffective.”
"

John said...

"number one predictor of academic success is a "good" teacher"

Source?

The number one cause of student success is actually their parents.
6 Ways to Raise a Smart Child

Please remember that the Parents/Community have far more waking hours with the child than the Teachers. Especially during the most important first five years of life. So of course they are the number one cause.

jerrye92002 said...

You know I dislike requests for sources, but here you are:
http://www.newteacher.com/pdf/only1way.pdf

Now riddle me this. If our choices for the number one factor in achievement are a) teacher effectiveness or b) poverty and/or lack of parental involvement, which do you think our government and society can most quickly and effectively change for the better? And if the one we can most easily change is number two, rather than number one, should we not do it while we wait for generations to fix number one?