Friday, January 16, 2015

Ratios, Volunteers and Good Role Models Matter

Jerry provided the following link in a previous post as proof that the Minneapolis schools are a disaster and the request for more money is just an excuse.  I mean if a higher percentage of poor kids can succeed in Minnetonka, Minneapolis must be failing the poor kids and wasting our money.  Better Ed The Blame Game  Or so this terribly misleading comparison states.

At first glance the chart looks pretty clear, I mean only 24% of FRP kids are proficient in Mpls as compared to 55% in Mtka.  And worse yet, on an average per student basis we are paying much more for this much worse result.  What are those people in Mpls doing?


However when one takes a less biased and broader view, the story changes considerably. In Minneapolis there is only .5 non-FRP students/families for every FRP student/family, where as in Mtka there are 13.5 non-FRP/families for every FRP student.  Why does this matter, let us count the ways:
  • In a class of 30 students, the Mpls Teacher will be working with ~19 FRP students where as the Mtka Teacher will be working with ~2 FRP students.
  • In a class of 30 students, the Mpls Teacher will be working with ~11 non-FRP students where as the Mtka Teacher will be working with ~28 non-FRP students.
  • Also, the students in the Mpls classroom often change due to high mobility rates amongst the poor, where as the Mtka class roster is much more stable.
  • In summary, the FRP student in the Mtka school is in a stable environment, surrounded by peers who are likely more academically/ emotionally capable with a Teacher who has more time to address their extra needs.

  • In a school of 500 students, the Mpls personnel will need to work with ~324 FRP students/families who have difficulty affording food, housing, transportation, school supplies, clothing, tutors, etc, where as Mtka only has ~34.
  • In a school of 500 students, the Mpls personnel will have only ~176 non-FRP students/families who have extra time and money to volunteer, mentor, provide good role modeling, etc where as Mtka has ~466.
  • In summary the Mtka school has a lot of academically capable helpers and donations to assist those children who are facing extra challenges.

  • In Mtka the crime and poverty rates are very low, so the schools need minimal security and/or social services in the schools, where as security is a significant expense in Mpls.

Now I haven't even touched on the English Learner and Special Education differences that are huge !!!  You can see them for yourselves.  In that school of 500 in Mpls, 123 are English challenged and 90 have special needs...  As compared to 8 and 52...

As a point of comparison, when Geoffrey Canada set up the Harlem Children's Zone, he believed that at least ~60% of the parents and children in the community needed to be enrolled in the program if it was to succeed.  He felt without this critical mass, the societal influence would overwhelm the good works that the HCZ was doing.

Now I agree that the Minneapolis School District, and the Teacher's Union in particular, are partially responsible for the poor results and high costs experienced in their district. (maybe 20%)  However it is silly to blame them entirely when the demographics are so stacked against them.  The sad part of this story is that as bad as the "avg Mpls Demographics" are, if we broke it down by individual schools the numbers would be much worse since they have certain neighborhood and magnet schools with very different demographics.

So I agree whole heartedly that most FRP, special needs and English learner students can learn, the reality is that it takes a ton of extra support to ensure they do.  And this can come from their Parents, their community and/or their school.  And if the first 2 are lacking, the school leg of the stool will be very expensive.



jerrye92002 said...

OK, tell you what. You fix the whole situation with parents, ESL, community standards and THEN we'll work on the 20% or so portion of the problem which is the schools. Somewhere around the time the whole world dies from the effects of Global Warming, we should start to see a turnaround, right?

What's wrong with doing something about that part of the equation that we DO (supposedly) control, which is the schools, and see if that doesn't actually lead to improvements in the other things as an aftereffect? Success breeds success.

Sure, the MPS teacher has a bigger problem-- i.e. a larger percentage of students already behind where they should be. So why, pray tell, do they not change their instructional practices to meet these kids where they are and move them forward from there? We know it can be done better than it has been, but the first step is to stop the continual proffering of excuses for non-performance. More help, more money? Sure, just so you tell me how you will get real results, and that you understand you will be fired if you don't.

John said...

I am all for improving the status quo public schools and helping the unlucky kids.

That is why I support ending tenure related job protections and enabling administrators to fire questionable Teachers. (ie same rules as private business)

And why I support discontinuing steps/lanes based compensation, and replacing it with performance based systems. (ie similar to private business)

And why I support placing the most competent and highly compensated Teachers where they are most needed, not letting them choose the most cushy classroom.

And why I support early childhood education, parent education, etc on sliding fee scales. These unlucky kids need as much school, interpersonal, stimulating, etc activities as their little blossoming brains can get.

John said...

If we want to go after the 80% faster and more agressively, I am still a fan of having Teachers grade the Parents... And tying it to the Parents tax / welfare benefits.

The Parents experience some financial punishment if Bobby's homework isn't done consistently, if Bobby often comes to school dirty and hungry, if the Parents don't come to Parent/Teacher conferences, if the child does not come to Kindergarten meeting some minimal standard, etc.

And the Parents receive some nominal financial gain if they perform well and responsibly.

Of course I am a supporter that people should not be allowed to have kids if they do not have the resources to raise them. Maybe we need forced adoptions or abortions to ensure that kids will only be raised in competent and capable homes???

jerrye92002 said...

Classic liberal stances, when you say you know better than parents who should be parents and how they should be rearing their kids, under penalty of... whatever.

I think the carrot of universal vouchers would be far more effective, and certainly more desirable. Simply give the parents the responsibility and the means to make a choice; let them see how much money is being spent to educate their kid, and watch them start to take a keen interest. This also puts the responsibility that the school insists upon having squarely back on them. They either deliver the education they promised, or the child goes somewhere else and takes the money away with him. THAT is an incentive.

One other thing: I would allow schools to eject the most disruptive students, forcing the parent to pay extra to find a school to deal with the kid. That's an incentive for the parent to be involved more closely (but yes, I recognize the transition problem from the current, but we have to start sometime).

John said...

Your faith in these irresponsible parents does astound me. Here are some conservative based facts.
Single Mother Homes
Where Kids Live

So even though these irresponsible people have:
- children outside of a marriage
- have more children than they can afford
- have children while addicted to a substance, gambling, etc
- have children while they are still children and/or irresponsible
- get divorced for selfish reasons with little concern for the children
- other

You think the best choice is double down on them and give them more responsibility and money?

Instead of holding them accountable for bringing a child into the world that they are not willing to or capable of adequately raising?

Now I know these may be the exception, however they need to be addressed in policy.
Welfare Mom 1 Part 2

Welfare Mom 2

The reality is that most responsible parents have 0 - 3 children in modern America. That is because they know the costs and make a responsible choice.

Should we really reward people who have more chidren than they can afford with more money and responsibility?

I think if a Parent shows a tendency to be irresponsible regarding their kids, they have earned being treated like a child by society / government.

jerrye92002 said...

Your math is fine, but your grasp of reality seems to be lacking. These kids have already been born and exist whether their parents were irresponsible at the time of their conception or not. They were responsible in not aborting the child, and none of that past is evidence that they are irresponsible today. The only thing you can say at this point is that they are "disadvantaged," perhaps by previous bad choices on their part, or perhaps not.

Either way, whether you are proposing "retroactive abortions" or not, it isn't right to make the kids suffer for the past sins of their parents, ESPECIALLY when you continue to insist that these parents NOT be given the opportunity and means to BE responsible for the kid's education. I believe in the basic goodness of human nature, especially where one's offspring are concerned, so I'm simply not willing to discard these kids without giving their parents a chance to do better, while DEMANDING that the schools also step up.

Really, do you have a solution to your grim outlook, or are all these kids simply doomed by demography?

John said...

Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me twice, shame on me.

I do agree that we hold both the Parents and Education system accountable for the success of these children, that is why I am pro NCLB, pro Common High Stds, anti Tenure, pro-Early Education, pro "Grading" Parents, etc.

And I have to disagree with you, intentionally bringing more children into this world than you are capable of feeding, clothing, nurturing, housing, etc seems to me to be the height of irresponsibility, with the most destructive of consequences for both the children and our society.

And instead of punishing these folks, you want to write them checks.

jerrye92002 said...

Not correct. I don't even want to write them a welfare check, certainly not for another child conceived while on (AFDC) welfare. There should be "forgiveness" for the first such "mistake," and help towards regaining self-sufficiency, but not a permanent gravy train. One proposal, for example, would refuse welfare benefits to any mother who did not identify the father of the child, and the father would then be dunned for child support, rather than nicking the innocent bystanding taxpayers.

A voucher goes to the parent only if that parent is homeschooling the child and showing adequate progress in the child's education. Otherwise, the voucher is only good at a "school."