Saturday, January 10, 2015

Kids are Kids, Are They Not

This thought deserves it's own discussion.
"A school or district that spends twice the average and gets only half the results (test scores, graduation rate) is a poor value. That's Minneapolis, and in any truly competitive situation this "company" would be out of business in a trice, replaced by something far, far better, at lower cost. " Jerry

"Though it may be common sense to you, it seems to be incredibly illogical to me. It is like saying the manufacturing costs should be the same no matter where the plant is located or what the quality/availabity of the raw materials are...

The reality is that most kids enter the Orono school district with well developed social, physical, and academic skills. They come with ready and excited to learn, with Parents who are dedicated to and capable of supporting them.

In Minneapolis things are a bit different. " G2A

"OK, I am admittedly paraphrasing, but two posts later you say it again: "In Minneapolis things are a bit different." How so? Kids are kids, are they not?" Jerry

"Really... You are kidding, right?" G2A

"NO, I'm not kidding. I start from a position that all kids should have an equal opportunity for a good education, and have a reasonably equal ability to learn. In fact, it's required by the Minnesota Constitution. Do you expect me to believe that our urban schools are NOT egregious examples of failure? Offer any explanations you want, but they are not excuses. " Jerry
Lets make the following assumptions:
  • ALL children enter the K-12 system at ~5 years old and exit at about 18 years old, be it Public, Private, other.
  • The goal is to ensure that ALL children that do not have mental special needs meet or exceed a pre-determined level of academic capability. 
My question is what factors impact the cost of attaining this worth while goal?  We made a good stab at it before, however I am interested in revisiting it.  Thoughts?


Laurie said...

I just did 5 minutes of research and learned that the incremental cost for Ell students is $2,571
for high need elementary ELLs.

This is based on and 2005 Arizona
English Language Learner Cost Study. My totally wild guess is that figure is low.

I think Pawlenty attempted to have some research done on what it costs to provide education, but with 1 minute of research I did not find anything.

Anonymous said...

A school or district that spends twice the average and gets only half the results (test scores, graduation rate) is a poor value. That's Minneapolis, and in any truly competitive situation this "company" would be out of business in a trice, replaced by something far, far better, at lower cost. "

Why are above average schools cheaper and more productive? What can Minneapolis schools learn from say, Edina or Wayzata Schools?


John said...

I am sure it has nothing to do with demographics of the student body... wink/nod

Let's see they ard all status quo schools, with union staff, and bound by the same laws.

John said...

Since the rules, staffing, etc are pretty standard across the State and Nation... It is kind of strange that the poorest performing schools are almost always in the areas with certain demographics. I wonder why this is if "Kids are Kids"?

jerrye92002 said...

Back the truck up! Why is the question being asked as "what factors impact the cost of attaining this worth while goal?" Why don't we ask the far more pertinent question of "what operational factors in the schools are preventing this goal from being reached in too many cases?" I don't CARE what the cost is, at the moment, so long as it is not used as an excuse for failure. If The Minneapolis district, or an individual school in it, would come to the legislature and say something like "we can double average 4th grade MCA test scores if we're given another $6000 per pupil, I would say give it to them, for 5 years (K-4). If they fail to deliver, the school goes back to its original budget and gets "reconstituted" (i.e. everybody is fired).

Sure, poor kids and other "disadvantaged" kids require more effort and no doubt cost to educate to the same level (they have further to "go") but the State aid formula supposedly fully accounts for those factors, so either we go back to the notion that "kids are kids," and completely equalize state aid or we quit excusing schools that can't educate inner city kids despite spending twice as much as a suburban kid.

My preference would be to start out with an equalization and then require individual schools or districts to come in with proposals to improve results by a specific amount in exchange for a specific amount of added funding. For example, with all of Minneapolis' challenges, I could see giving them somewhere near double the state aid (like they have now), but I would have to insist that their test scores come up to somewhere near the state average, in exchange.

John said...

"the State aid formula supposedly fully accounts for those factors"

Do you really believe this?

Because I think most educators would disagree with you. That is why they are continually asking for more money for social services, early childhood education, etc. I mean look at Laurie's comments.

Here is some food for thought.
NG Brain Development

John said...

This site may be interesting.
Zero to Three

John said...

A few more:
Freakonomics Early Education
Freakonomics: Just a Teacher Problem

Laurie said...

My comments are asking for more money for charter schools which are funded at about the same level as suburban districts.

Laurie said...

I have been having fun with MDE data center school report cards.

Here is a link comparing math scores for my school with Mpls controlling for similar school population as best I can (black, low income, ELL) I don't think we do so bad since our funding is so much lower.

school comparison

Laurie said...

Here is one more school comparison for you. It is between Mpls puplic and a charter that is known for its high performance (controlled for a population that is hispanic, low income, ELL)

school comparison

John said...

Not trying to make excuses for Mpls Schools, just remember that you are comparing apples and oranges.

For a student to be in a magnet or charter school, the parents needed to care enough and be engaged enough to make the effort to enroll them and get them there. The Mpls schools have a large contingent of students whose parents don't meet these absolutely critical criteria.

John said...

What I do believe is that charter schools should be funded by a similar formula as other public schools. And that should be based on the needs of their student population.

That is what this post is about. If one chose to give vouchers based on student need, what factors would one use to calculate the value of such?

I assume the simple ones are:
- degree of intelligence special need
- degree of emotional special need
- capability to communicate in English
- current academic and social capability relative to current grade
- current parental situation (ie knowledge, responsibility, capability, single parent, attitude toward education, etc)
- current economic situation (ie time / money to support student)


John said...

Though it has less impact on academic achievement, we can't forget degree of physical special needs because it can drive big costs for a school.

Laurie said...

charter schools have to take anybody who wants to enroll, space available, and transportation is provided. Mpls. has much in common with many charters, except my school has a harder to educate population. Does Mpls have 20% newcomers with no prior formal schooling? Could you teach a child six years worth of math in one year?

It s funny about your freakonomics link; I have read books by nearly all the participants including Joel Klein, David Levin, Dana Goldstein., and Amanda Ripley. They forgot to include the author of Building a Better Teacher, but maybe that is because her book is too boring.

about funding for student needs. The federal govt provides funds for educating spec ed students, low income kids, and English language learners. In all three cases the funds are insufficient to meet the needs. I don't know if the state adds anything for these special populations.

Lastly, I am getting tired of your argument about high spec ed costs for Mpls. I am quite sure this does not justify a funding level 50% higher.

and there is one more thing I'd like to include. Many students with behavior problems enroll in charter schools because things are not going all that well in their traditional neighborhood school

John said...

Learning Opportunities

MN Charter Summary
Charter Law


I am not sure where you heard that Charters need to accept and keep all students. Many schools have contracts thet the Parents and Students need to sign. They don't meet the agreement, they are out.

Laurie said...

I know from experience that charters need to accept anyone who applies, space available. They can also expel students, which a Mpls. school can do as well. My school has considered expelling students from time to time. I think parents have chosen to leave before that occurred.

I really don't know much about the law regarding expelling students.

Many charters exist because of a mission to increase achievement of at risk students. Nothing I have read or experienced indicates that they are eager to expel students who are disruptive or don't do their homework.

Do you have some specific knowledge that charters expel students at a higher level?

Laurie said...

I found this with a bit of skimming your MN charter school law link:

"Once a student is enrolled in the school, the student is considered enrolled in the school until the student formally withdraws or is expelled under the Pupil Fair Dismissal Act "

That sounds about right as judged by my experience. My principal is very reluctan to suspend students and takes pride in reducing suspensions from year to year.

Laurie said...

just FYI - as a conservative you are supposed to be supporting charter schools and as a liberal I am supposed to be defending traditional public schools.

As a charter school teacher I just want my students to be given equal opportunity in terms of funding. I'd really like for my school to have a library.

John said...

"As a Conservative"... I don't think I am going to be held up as the poster child for American Conservatives any time soon. It seems that only the Liberals see me as a Conservative. I see good and bad in all of the school models.

If you want equal funding, you had best start lobbying those DFL politicians, they are the ones who oppose charters and funding them identical to the status quo Public Schools. Remember that every dollar they give your school comes out of the budgets of districts like Minneapolis. Which of course is not too popular with Education Minnesota and the School District personnel who helped to get those politicians elected.

John said...

Remember: to them your school is the enemy who is out to take money and influence that they feel they need to help their students. Doesn't your school have a corporate partner who could help raise donations for a library?

Laurie said...

I find it quite funny that you don't realize you're conservative (mostly), as your blog intro has something in there about self awareness.

It is also interesting that you are not more supportive of charters, as they are non union, have condensed salary schedule, lower pay, more opportunities for merit pay, no tenure, etc, all things you have supported in the past. As a union hater what is it that you like about traditional districts?

I think you just like to disagree and try to win arguements, whatever the opinions given on your blog. If Sean or some other liberal was commenting on this topic promoting public schools I think you would have had plenty of criticism for them.

As for corporate partners, non of the schools I have worked at have had them.

jerrye92002 said...

"'the State aid formula supposedly fully accounts for those factors'
Do you really believe this?"

It doesn't matter whether I believe it or not. The crazy DFLers down at the Legislature believe it, or they wouldn't have built all of your "factors" into that incredibly complex "formula." As evidence, just look at the state aid that flows to Minneapolis and St. Paul-- districts with a predominance of your cost-raising factors-- compared with what goes to a suburban or rural district with few of them. It's self-evident.

Now, does this formula CORRECTLY reflect the added cost of educating a disadvantaged child, or not? I would argue that it is impossible to know, because it has not happened in all the years we have been doing it. It seems to me the REASON it has not happened is because we continue to assume that if we just get the money high enough, the magic happens. It's the same logic as buying more expensive golf clubs to improve your score.

Somebody needs to figure out how to teach these kids, and DO that, and worry about the cost later. Right now the inner city schools are being overcompensated compared to their results.

Laurie said...

Jerry, I am worried that I sort of agree with you again.

Maybe the current best answer on educating at risk kids is charter schools (though I am not including mine in this group)

The Unappreciated Success Of Charter Schools

Here is a bit more data from MDE school report cards, if anyone besides me find this interesting. I am comparing Minneapolis public with Best Academy, which is another "beat the odds" school known for higher acievement. It was even featured in an hour long CNN special a year or 2 ago.

Anyway, here's the data, first comparing low income blacks with a simililar group at MPS.

Best Academy vs.MPS (low income blacks)

Best Academy vs MPS ( low income, black, ELL students)

I think my second comparison would be mostly Somali students, which appear to make up about 40% of Best Academy enrollment.

John said...

Hi Laurie,
I just look Conservative to you since I am to the right of you in the theater.
G2A Snopes

So how many Conservatives do you know who are supportive of:
- gay marriage
- pro-choice
- tax increases as long as matching cuts occur
- public schools (for the most part...)
- against school vouchers (ie supports lucky kids, leaves unlucky kids behind)
- okay with legalizing pot and prostitution

As I have said for years, I am moderately fiscal Conservative and pretty socially Liberal.

John said...

"As a union hater what is it that you like about traditional districts?"

I am not sure it is what I like about status quo Public Schools as much as I appreciate that their challenges are much more daunting than those of magnets, privates and/or charters.

See the magnets, charters and privates only get children if their Parents care enough and are capable enough to apply for admission to those schools. This means the schools have a partner who is also interested in and somewhat dedicated to seeing the student succeed academically.

Teaching unlucky students who want to learn and have supportive Parents who are willing to try to get ahead is challenging as you know.

Just imagine how incredibly difficult it is to teach unlucky students who have total deadbeats for parents who have bought into the victim mentality.

I am just saying, be thankful for the students/parents your school attracts. It could be much worse.

John said...

Regarding Best vs Mpls, did you look at the demographics tab?

Best has more minorities and poverty, but they only have ~8% special ed as compared to Mpls having ~18%.

I am not saying one or the other is better. I am just saying that they are different and one must take that into account when comparing their costs and results.

Laurie said...

My comment on why I see you as conservative disappeared on me before I could post it and I don't want to retype it.

I also don't want to explain any more that charters get students just as challenging to educate as traditional ditricts (or harder), with the exception of super high needs special ed which is a small very small percentage.

My school has lots of kids that could be qualified for spec ed with a learning disability or behavior disorder, but some parents don't want to have them labeled with a disability.

Lastly, it is very easy to enroill a child in a charter school, not really any harder than signing them up for the traditional neighborhood school.

Lastly for real, one way that the two charters I compared to mpls get higher achievement is not because they have better students, but because they require their teachers to work 10 hour days (from 7 to 5) to provide more learning time for their students.

John said...

Let's say that we increase funding for charters and the number of spots for students grow, how would that vary from my G2A Magnet School Model?

Wouldn't both leave only the unluckiest and most expensive special needs students in the status quo Public Schools?

Is this a fair and acceptable solution?

How does it differ from all the lucky kids/families who have fled the schools/communities that contain many unlucky kids/families? (ie white flight)

That is what left us with all the poverty stricken school districts in the first place. Everyone who could... Moved to a "better school". Thereby making the school they left worse... (ie downward spiral)

Wouldn't it be better to reform those Public Schools and encourage more lucky kids/families to attend them? Thereby providing additional volunteers and good student role models to help the unluckiest of our students? (ie virtuous cycle of improvement)

John said...

By the way, this argument is probably where Jerry and I started our relationship back in 2008. He was pro-vouchers and I was arguing that they would just allow more people to run from the unluckiest kids. So I don't think my views have shifted too far.

John said...

Your comment about special needs being under reported because of the stigma makes some sense. However that is typical of all schools.

Even likely in the Mpls schools at 18+%...

As I said, I am fine with giving charters the same funding as other publics, including the local revenues, if they have the same types of students. The people you have to convince are the DFL politicians that you most likely voted for.

jerrye92002 said...

"See the magnets, charters and privates only get children if their Parents care enough and are capable enough to apply for admission..."

Can I call a foul, here? How DARE you suggest that only parents with the resources to choose a school care about their children? How can you condemn parents for not making the best choice when you have offered them no choice at all? And how can you possibly stand by and allow the non-choice they are offered and commanded by law to accept, to deteriorate so badly that the kids would be better off, educationally, at home watching TV, while the public schools spend atrocious sums doing terrible damage?

jerrye92002 said...

" He was pro-vouchers and I was arguing that they would just allow more people to run from the unluckiest kids. So I don't think my views have shifted too far."

Neither have mine. I still think you are blaming the victims. The number of "unlucky kids" is merely some subset of those condemned to vastly under-performing public schools. I'm perfectly willing to accept the premise that some kids need more effort and perhaps cost to educate. What I am not willing to accept is the way some public school SYSTEMS (not teachers) accept rampant failure.

Laurie said...

John, rather than contradict every statement I make on your blog comments, do you consider deferring once in awhile to my greater expertise on some aspects of education.

My qualifications:

-2 teaching degress (elem ed and sped ed)
-20+ years teaching in a variety of settings from preschool to highschool, including traditional districts, charter schools, intermediate districts, treatment centers and a private school in a foreign country.
-I have read at least a dozen books on education, including 3 just in this past month.
-As a parent I have raised 2 children successfully through K-12 in a public educationpublic district.

What is your source of expertise?

the tipping point which contributed to my little rant was this statement:

"Your comment about special needs being under reported because of the stigma makes some sense. However that is typical of all schools."

Do you know alot of Somali, Hmong, and African American families? Have you proposed evaluating their children for special ed. Have you had parents refuse, even though thier 8th grade child reads at kindergarten level after 3 years of school? Btw that child did not pass either the math or reading MCA's and contriubuted to the low test scores at my school.

We have had a Somali speaker from the pacer center at my school to try to help parents understand about disabilities and what this might mean for their child. Also the "advocate" assigned to my school from the state to help us improve said that low spec ed numbers are typical in Somali schools becasue of the disability stigma in their culture.

John said...

I mean no offense and you are likely correct that certain cultures are more hesitant to accepting a special ed label.

However due to my close relationship to early education professionals, I do know that many Americans also are hesitant.

Also, how many Somalis and other sensitive minorities do you think attend Mpls Schools?

John said...

"How DARE you suggest that only parents with the resources to choose a school care about their children?"

Parents do not need resources to apply to attend a charter or magnet school. They just need to make the effort to fill out a form on time. Based on the demographics of our RDale magnet schools, there are many parents who do not make that effort.

That is why they are much less diverse than our district schools...

How dare you ignore these dead beat parents who neglect their children? And ignore the needs of these most unlucky of children?

Laurie said...

My guess is about 10% of MPS students are Somalis and I don't know which other minorities you think are sensitive. I do know Somalis opt out of traditional districts at a high rate.
Here is my last education related link for you as I am taking a break from your blog for awhile.

Somalis in schools: One in three chooses charters in Twin Cities

While the discussion has often aggravated me it has also been interesting, as I think I may have persuaded myself that my school should be shut down (if it were up to me.) Your welcome for all the informative links I have provided as well as my personal insights.

jerrye92002 said...

"How dare you ignore these dead beat parents who neglect their children..."

Put yourself in their shoes. They are forced by law to send their kids to a school which solicits no input from them as parents, and that provides no guidance or education to their kids, year after year. Then nobody TELLS them about this opportunity to break free and go to a school with less funding (funding being the only thing that matters, you know), but requires something extra from them. This isn't deadbeat parenting. This is BEAT DOWN parenting.

Sure, there are a few parents that don't give a d@@n about their kids, but I think you will find far more school systems in that category than parents. I mean, the schools get paid the same (or more) for failing kids as they do for successful ones, right?

jerrye92002 said...

Laurie, John

You both have interesting perspectives on Sp Ed that I had never considered. I have long believed that we have TOO MANY kids marked as "special ed" kids, and attributed that to the fact that there is a financial incentive for the school district to do so-- they get more money for such kids.

Sure, there are kids on the far end of that spectrum that will never fit into regular classes, but I think on the near fringe are a lot of kids that just need a little extra help here or there, that should be a part of the regular classroom "adjustment" that all schools need to make for individual difference. If I thought that the little extra funding gained by classifying (or misclassifying, IMHO) the kid as Sp Ed was providing the necessary resources for that adjustment, fine, but I also think most of that should be essentially "free," just a matter of adjusting our pedagogical paradigm.

jerrye92002 said...

Laurie, say it isn't so! On what basis do you think your school should be shut down? I thought the answer was more charters with more funding and more flexibility to engage the student population they have? I agree with you on that! I can understand your wanting to give up with the obstacles your school has, but I would rather fix the problem if I could.

John said...

Though you like to believe that public schools with a lot of unlucky students are too expensive and that competition will fix everything. The reality is that most charters struggle to get by and have similar results as the publics.

And that is with them only having parents that were smart enough and responsible enough to fill out the enrollment paperwork on time.

John said...

"Then nobody TELLS them about this opportunity to break free and go to a school with less funding, but requires something extra from them."

I thought you were against a nanny government leading people around by their noses, and for people taking responsibility for their lives.

This sounds like you are blaming "some entity" for not baby sitting these Parents and leading them to the option that is best for their kids...

RDale advertises their Magnets every chance they get. If the Parents in the district don't know about them, that is because they are deaf, blind, irresponsible and/or indifferent.

Next you will be advocating that we have more Social Workers in the communities helping Parents raise THEIR children. (hahaha)

jerrye92002 said...

So, any parent that doesn't necessarily see their kid in STEM or Spanish immersion is irresponsible, by your definition? Do you really believe that the majority of parents in your District fit that definition? What if they just want their kid to learn how to read, write, and do ordinary math? Why isn't whatever is being done in the magnet schools (you say they are successful) NOT being done in all the other schools? That's been my point all along, that we have models of education that we know work, but the public schools refuse to adopt them. I wish we would quit allowing them excuses like insufficient money or poor parenting until they at least make a decent attempt at doing better with what they have.

Tell me, do the teachers unions and school districts really work to make the charters successful and available, or do they work against them? Why should that be, if the education of the child is the foremost consideration?

John said...

Two Schools, Same District, Similar Methods, Different Results...

ZLE vs NE Results

ZLE vs NE Demographics

The primary difference between these schools is demographics and results...

John said...

Another example


I am not sure what it would take to convince you that the biggest issue is the Parents, peers, etc.

jerrye92002 said...

"Two Schools, Same District, Similar Methods, Different Results..."

I wasn't able to access your links, but let's assume they prove what you say they do. So what? WHY are these two schools, with substantially different demographics, employing "similar methods" of teaching? "kids are kids" so far as our expectations go, but every individual kid is different and I can't deny that some demographic factors are a part of that. So why do the schools insist on the same obviously failed approach, though sometimes costing more (because of demographics), for every kid? Schools that adapt to their demographics obviously succeed to a greater degree, starting with the expectation that every kid can learn, if properly taught, regardless of the demographic they come from.

jerrye92002 said...

"I am not sure what it would take to convince you that the biggest issue is the Parents, peers, etc."

Here it is: Show me a school in which the achievement gap is more or less closed BECAUSE the "unlucky kids" (your word) have been taught differently and "brought up to speed." OH, I'm sorry. But that would convince me that I was right, and that the biggest factor is the SCHOOL, not the parents. Who, pray tell, is responsible for what and how and when and how well the child is taught? That's not the parent. How do you expect the schools to improve if they have no responsibility in the matter? If these kids truly cannot be taught, leave them home and save the money.

jerrye92002 said...

At the risk of introducing facts and logic into the debate, look at this:

Laurie said...

"Laurie, say it isn't so!

Thanks for your encouraging words, Jerry.

The students as my school deserve a better education than we are currently offering them. Maybe this process of state intervention will surprise me and we will become good enough rather than shut down. I really don't want to go into detail on how we are lacking. I will say that I think being able to continue offering summer school is essential and that is not in the budget for this summer.

John said...

Jerry's Link

jerrye92002 said...

"... and that is not in the budget for this summer."

That's ridiculous! If summer school is what is needed to get academic achievement, then the budget should be modified or even increased to do that. I'm tired of excuses that schools don't have enough money and, when given the money, don't improve results one bit. In most cases, they don't even promise to improve, they just sort of let you assume that is what will happen. You've said your charter gets less funding than the other District schools; why not raise a fuss and suggest you need MORE? If you got somebody to wade through the complexities of the State aid formula (something that 4 years of college math didn't equip me to do), you could probably prove that your school is getting the short end of the budget stick. It's not right. By the way, are you a union shop?

John said...

MN Legislators Guide to School Finance

Laurie said...

about summer school and budgets. I don't know much about complex school finance particulars, I just found this info in a new Minncan report:

The State of Minnesota Public Education, 2014

I am assuming my school is funded at a level similar to the first two, which are charters. I am positive if we had sufficient funds we would have summer school. We did have my first 4 years at the school but it is my understanding some grant money ran out.

Global Academy $12,928

Harvest Preparatory School

Minneapolis Public School District

Mounds View Public School District

St. Paul Public School District

jerrye92002 said...

So why aren't the charter schools given the same budget as the nearby public schools? Seems only fair and reasonable to me, unless you are being punished for daring to go "off reservation."

John said...

Yes charters have less State funding and have access to less local funding. That is why earlier I noted that Laurie had better start lobbying her DFL politicians.

MN Funding Difference

Of course, on the other hand with charters we are giving Public money to Private business that have often been poorly managed and sometimes prone to fraud, so care does need to be taken.

jerrye92002 said...

I think the solution to accountability at charters is the same as accountability at the publics. That is, test the kids and see if they are learning anything. Make allowances for where they started, of course, but so long as they are making "adequate yearly progress," we shouldn't get all excited about how the money is being spent. We get all hung up on how much is being spent on the assumption that somehow that correlates to results, when it is RESULTS that correlate to results.