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Thread: (Appropriately) valuing co-curricular activities

  1. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by TracyScheidemantel View Post
    Sheila,
    I'm just pointing out that when looking at priorities, it may not be enough to say that we should strive for a best practice, without discussing what is cut to account for it.
    Truer words were never spoken.
    There should have been a bit of discussion before closing Loker.

    You know, I think George Bush said it best:
    "Education is my top priority. However, education is not my top priority."

    Actions speak louder than words.
    Closing a school in order to, in the words of Jeff Dieffenbach “help the override pass” speaks volumes about priorities.
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

  2. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sheila Carel View Post
    ...

    To Jeff D. Could you please provide us with an updated spreadsheet showing us just how many children and how many sections will be at each grade level in each of the elementary schools.
    I don't have such a spreadsheet, as the School Committee has not discussed these numbers since its 4/28 meeting (I was unable to attend the 5/12 meeting).

    Quote Originally Posted by Sheila Carel View Post
    As we look at class size issues, you might be interested in reading the following, put out by the NEA.
    Here's the URL: http://www.nea.org/classsize/index.html
    With all due respect to the NEA, as a teacher union, it's not surprising that they would lobby for smaller classes (and therefore more jobs).

    That said, I too like small class sizes. I served on the Class Size Task Force (CSTF) back in 2000 or so, which recommended reducing the class size guideline to the current policy. The NEA 15:1 number would be great. Unfortunately, achieving it would require a 4th elementary school of roughly 20 sections (approx. 1,185 students divided by 15 sections = 79 classrooms). And on the order of $2M in additional funding in the form of teacher salaries and related costs.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sheila Carel View Post
    STAR Project Proves Long-term Gains

    The benefits of smaller classes are now widely acknowledged. Few education issues have been studied more than the effect of class size on student achievement. But until Tennessee’s longitudinal class-size study — Student Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR) project — results were contradictory and inconclusive. The STAR project showed that those enrolled in small classes as youngsters were more likely to:

    Graduate on time — 72 percent of students, versus 66 percent from regular classes and 65 percent from classes with a paraprofessional
    Complete more advanced math and English courses
    Complete high school — 19 percent dropped out, versus 23 percent from regular classes and 26 percent from classes with a paraprofessional
    Graduate with honors.
    Goal Should Be Student-Teacher Ratio of 15 to 1
    The CSTF examined the STAR report. My recollection may be a bit rusty, but my understanding of their findings is that reductions from the 20 range to the 15 range showed improvement for disadvantaged students, and that this improvement tended not to "stick" with time (I'm not familiar with the DOE report, but am interested to learn more).

    Class size reductions in the realm of the possible in Wayland simply won't be on this order.

    Again, I'd be all for smaller classes ... if we could afford them. As it is, our philosophy of paying well to attract and retain the best teachers (and giving them class sizes somewhat larger than our peers) produces strong results.

    Residents with viewpoints as disparate on some topics as Tom Sciacca, Alan Reiss, and I agree on at least one thing: that educational productivity hasn't increased in any meaningful way in more than a century (a teacher with 25 students in 2000 is no more productive--at least in one sense of the word--than a teacher with 25 students in 1900). Reducing class size only drives the productivity down.

    If funds were unlimited, this productivity drop wouldn't be a problem. But with salaries, health insurance, utilities, and fuel costs (I know, I know--restart the 2008-2009 transportation cost conversation here) going up, we simply can't afford smaller class sizes. For those who disagree, I would be interested to hear what we'd sacrifice to pay for them. Or, would we ask for even more frequent and larger overrides?

    The forecast isn't gloom and doom, however. I'm optimistic that technology can be deployed in education as it has been in other fields to improve productivity *and* outcome quality. The Superintendent's Technology Task Force, on which I and dozens of other residents are serving, is exploring this among other questions.

  3. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    Closing a school in order to, in the words of Jeff Dieffenbach “help the override pass” speaks volumes about priorities.
    As does refusing to adjust to declining enrollment and financial pressures to the tune of a failed override.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    The NEA 15:1 number would be great. Unfortunately, achieving it would require a 4th elementary school of roughly 20 sections
    We'd settle for the 3 we had.
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    As does refusing to adjust to declining enrollment and financial pressures to the tune of a failed override.
    The idea that enrollment was declining at a rate and to a degree that necessitated closing a school, is a myth.

    As to the "financial pressures to the tune of a failed override", I'd have to say there was a gross overreaction to this and that it is not up to the SC to pass the override, anyway. They need to tell us what their TRUE needs are and let the taxpayers decide about the override.
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

  6. #51
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    The idea that enrollment was declining at a rate and to a degree that necessitated closing a school, is a myth.
    Broken record time: the Loker/Happy Hollow question boiled down to how one valued a broad and disparate set of safety, education, financial, and logistics facts and opinions. Your asserting otherwise doesn't change that reality, just as your asserting "myth" has no basis in reality. Regarding your charge of enrollment decline myth, I think it unlikely that either of us will change the other's mind, and on this point, I'll stop trying.

    So here's what I'd like to know. Setting aside the question of whether the trend pointed to 2008-2009 vs. 2009-2010, do others reading this thread agree with John's claim that the enrollment decline (which ignores net added capacity) on which the School Committee in part based its decision is a myth?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    As to the "financial pressures to the tune of a failed override", I'd have to say there was a gross overreaction to this and that it is not up to the SC to pass the override, anyway. They need to tell us what their TRUE needs are and let the taxpayers decide about the override.
    I'm happy to spell out rough estimates (mine alone, ballpark, and not "official") of true annual operating and capital needs for a partial list of programs I'd like the WPS to offer (in no particular order).

    • Smaller elementary class sizes (filling all classrooms at all 3 buildings, adding approx. 10 teachers): $750k
    • Full day Kindergarten: $250k
    • Elementary school foreign language: $400k
    • Incremental technology: $250k (plus perhaps $1M in "catch up" funds)
    • Reduce burden on specialists (art, music, etc.): $100k
    • Remove athletic fees, fund crew/hockey: $350k


    All of the above and many others would be worthwhile. If the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee would entertain the idea of adding items such as these as "menu options" above and beyond the preservational overrides we've been asking for, I'd certainly have no objection as long as they wouldn't be viewed as threatening the preservational overrides themselves.

    To suggest, however, that the schools should request a budget for items such as these (and not your exaggerated "2x" $65M budget) without consideration of preservational override failure implications wholly misunderstands the role of the School Committee.

    On this point too, I'm not imagining that I'll convince you, and I'll expend no more energy attempting to do so. Instead, I'll again ask those reading this thread (as I've asked on the "override business" thread, to little response): should the School Committee ask for reasonable educational programs without consideration of the budget impact or the size of resulting overrides?

    I'm actually fairly surprised that so few of the readers of the Jeff-and-John-Conversation discussion board have weighed in on either of the above questions. Any opinions out there?

  7. #52
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    Default Class sizes

    Jeff,
    If you don't consider the NEA, a reputable group, to be a worthwhile source, you might want to consider reviewing the lit. on this subject. As the body of research evolves, we are learning more about how class size does affect instruction and learning.


    See the following article from Education Week.

    Students Observed to Be ‘On Task’ Less as Class Size Grows
    By Debra Viadero



    New York
    A new British study quantifies and confirms what many teachers have long believed: Students tend to be “off task” more often when they are in larger classes.

    The report, by researchers from the University of London Institute of Education, was one of several studies on the educational effects of reducing class sizes that were presented here last week on the first day of the annual meeting of the Washington-based American Educational Research Association. The March 24-28 event was expected to draw more than 15,000 education scholars from around the world.

    Studies on class size have long suggested that elementary school pupils tend to learn more in classes of 20 students or fewer. The new papers, which were based on studies conducted in the United States and Hong Kong, as well as in Great Britain, extend and deepen the discussion on that topic by looking more closely at what goes on inside smaller and larger classes.

    In his study of British classrooms, for instance, researcher Peter Blatchford found that both elementary and secondary students benefit from smaller classes, and that the benefits at the secondary level are particularly strong for the lowest-achieving students. That study involved 686 students in 27 primary schools and 22 secondary schools in Great Britain.

    Benefits in Britain
    The students were closely observed by teams of researchers who recorded their “moment to moment” behaviors in blocks of 10-second intervals. The researchers found that adding five students to a class decreased the odds of students’ being on task by nearly a quarter. In fact, the study found that low-attaining students were nearly twice as likely to be disengaged in classes of 30 students as they were in classes of 15. “As class size increases, the amount of teaching also increases,” Mr. Blatchford, a professor of psychology and education, added. “But that’s explained by more whole-class teaching.”

    Teachers are not necessarily capitalizing on the smaller settings to engage more students in collaborative projects—a finding that that some other studies have echoed. In secondary classrooms with low-achieving students, though, teachers are also spending more of their time dealing with pupils’ off-task behaviors, Mr. Blatchford said.

    Contrary to some class-size studies conducted in the United States, the British researchers found no “threshold effect” in their study. In other words, classes did not have to be reduced to 15 or 20 students before the behavioral benefits started to kick in.

    Reducing class size at any end of the class-size spectrum seemed to help.

    Hong Kong Context
    A second study presented at the conference, though, suggested that cultural differences can also play a role in the way that class-size differences affect learning.

    Maurice Galton, an education professor from the University of Cambridge in Britain, has been studying the effects of an initiative to phase in reductions in primary-level class sizes over several years in Hong Kong. The schools there, as elsewhere in Asia, are noted for having larger classes than is typical in many Western nations.

    In the 7,000-student Hong Kong study, the class-size reductions appeared to have no effect on the level of student engagement—mostly because students were already on task much of the time, according to Mr. Galton. He also found that teachers’ one-on-one interactions with students were just as frequent in classes of 20 to 25 students as they were in classes of 32 to 37 students.

    Mr. Galton said that is because Chinese teachers typically make an effort to interact with each student, keeping track by ticking off the names on the class roster as they go along.

    Teachers did spend more time talking with individual students in smaller classes, though, and their students were more likely to ask for help outside of class. Teachers in larger classes also relied more on textbooks for all of their instruction, the study found.

    “We need to be able to collect data in different cultural contexts,” Mr. Galton said, “so we can tease out those things that are common and those things that are peculiar to that culture.”

    U.S. Results Not Ready
    The U.S. study, which was conducted by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, also attempts to focus on what goes on inside classrooms, rather than rely on measuring only outcomes, such as student achievement.

    The study tracked schooling in nine Wisconsin schools taking part in that state’s Student Achievement Guarantee in Education, or SAGE, program. The initiative is aimed at reducing the pupil-teacher ratio to 15-to-1 in kindergarten to 3rd grade classrooms serving economically disadvantaged students.

    Those findings are not due to be released by the state education department until this summer.

  8. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sheila Carel View Post
    Jeff,
    If you don't consider the NEA, a reputable group, to be a worthwhile source, you might want to consider reviewing the lit. on this subject. As the body of research evolves, we are learning more about how class size does affect instruction and learning.
    Contrary to your implication, I consider the NEA to be worthwhile (and reputable). At the same time, it would be unwise to ignore their motivations. And I certainly plan to take a look at what the literature has told us since 8 years ago when I reviewed it in detail.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    should the School Committee ask for reasonable educational programs without consideration of the budget impact or the size of resulting overrides?

    I'm actually fairly surprised that so few of the readers of the Jeff-and-John-Conversation discussion board have weighed in on either of the above questions. Any opinions out there?

    Jeff,

    You can ask people to open their wallets, but you shouldn't close their school without warning(and it was a full school with no empty classrooms I should point out.) You noted on another blog that the community of Loker passed the override, and took the committee to task by voting for a new school committee candidate.

    So yes, the school committee should ask for the money it needs to run the schools. Also, it is my understanding that we are busing all of Loker for less cost than we had prior to the reconfiguration. If that is the case, surely we could have identified the gross inefficiencies of the bus routes years ago, and avoided this scenio completely. Would you agree?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    I'll again ask those reading this thread (as I've asked on the "override business" thread, to little response): should the School Committee ask for reasonable educational programs without consideration of the budget impact or the size of resulting overrides?

    I'm actually fairly surprised that so few of the readers of the Jeff-and-John-Conversation discussion board have weighed in on either of the above questions. Any opinions out there?
    Jeff, I believe the School Committee needs to consider the budget impact and the size of resulting overrides in making budget requests. It would be clearly be irresponsible not to consider the budget impacts.

    We will never know whether the override would have passed had the amount requested been $300,000 higher. The School Committee had to weigh the odds -- was it better to have a somewhat higher chance of passing the override while reconfiguring at the elementary level, or was it better to take a somewhat lower chance while maintaining the three schools? This is a judgment call, and honest people are going to have different opinions on both sides of the matter.

    In retrospect (with the clearer vision of 20/20 hindsight), I wish the School Committee had waited a year on the reconfiguration. I have concerns about class size, and did not realize that average class sizes were going to go up (even if still within guidelines).

    But I believe this is a very close call, and I do not fault the School Committee for having a different judgment. It is important for the town to know that the School Committee respects our wallets, and that it is determined to be frugal with the town's money.

  11. #56
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    Default Fiscal Responsibility...I Think Not!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    But I believe this is a very close call, and I do not fault the School Committee for having a different judgment. It is important for the town to know that the School Committee respects our wallets, and that it is determined to be frugal with the town's money.
    Kim...come on! They saved us an average of $50 or so by rushing into the school closure/reconfiguration. That's not fiscal responsibility, that is politics. I would have liked the SC to stand up for doing the right thing instead of shrinking behind the $50/median household. That's what I would have done...

  12. #57
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    Default $50 a household

    ...and for that we will have crowded schools, which the research clearly shows has a negative impact on students and teachers.

    The research shows-
    lower teacher moral
    higher teacher turnover
    increased behavioral issues
    higher absenteism
    lower academic acheivement

    In addition, Claypit can no longer be consider a small school.

    The educational trend, based on sound research, is for smaller class sizes and smaller schools.

    I have not heard much discussion from the SC about the educational benefits of their decision to move to a 2 1/2 model for the coming school year. Jeff D, would you please weigh in on the educational benefits that drove your decision?
    Thanks,
    Sheila

  13. #58
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    Default Should the School Committee consider budget impacts?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    That's not fiscal responsibility, that is politics.
    But Jeff, that gets back to Jeff Dieffenbach's original question - "should the School Committee ask for reasonable educational programs without consideration of the budget impact or the size of resulting overrides?"

    And my answer is an emphatic NO. The School Committee must consider the budget impact and make an assessment of whether they think the town approves of (i.e., is willing to spend money on) an expenditure.

    And so... I turn Jeff Dieffenbach's question to you. Jeff (Baron), "should the School Committee ask for reasonable educational programs without consideration of the budget impact or the size of resulting overrides?"

  14. #59
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    Default what's "reasonable?"

    Ultimately the SC did indeed submit a "reasonable" budget for FY 2009 with very few cuts (if any) from FY 2008, knowing that the override would be required to fund the operating budget. Wish-list items, such as the ones Jeff Dieffenbach noted, were generally excluded. So actually the result this year was a budget that the SC deemed "unreasonable" (according to the definition of this thread) without factoring in the savings from the 2 1/2 reconfiguration plan. They felt that the town would not support the override for all the fixed and co-curriculars included unless it was offset by the estimated savings of making Loker a K-only school for FY 2009. I disagree with that mindset on its face -- I agree with Jeff Baron that this was more political than prudent -- and on the basis of the savings from the consolidation. Elementary school costs that would not have occurred in FY 2009 in any scenario should not have been considered as justifying this decision, and incremental transportation expenses should have been better defined. In situations where savings from fairly radical decisions like this one are undefined and/or minimal yet carry a significant qualitative cost, I think it is incumbent upon the School Committee to weigh its financial mission against its educational one. It seems strange that this decision was justified on a financial basis but all the other co-curriculars mentioned earlier should not have to be subject to the same cost scrutiny.
    Last edited by Paul Grasso; 06-04-2008 at 09:41 PM. Reason: edited for clarity (I hope) - pg

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    Default right & wrong

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Baron View Post
    I would have liked the SC to stand up for doing the right thing instead of shrinking behind the $50/median household. That's what I would have done...
    Jeff, A reminder that what you claim to be "right" is what is "right" for you. Others believe they are entitled to their own opinions and because they might differ with yours, does not mean they are wrong (or right for that matter!!). I think it would be respectful for everyone to understand this and refrain from making blanket statements declaring what is right or wrong. Instead, why don't we express our opinions with the courtesy of acknowledging that it is no more than that...an opinion.

    That said, I don't believe the SC "shrunk behind the $50/median household". It would have been easy for them to keep 3 schools as k-5 (some might have considered that "shrinking"). Whether you agree with the decision, or not, I'm having a hard time understanding why anyone would think that the SC had anything to gain by doing this for any reason other than those they have stated.

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