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Thread: Imagining the "Dawn Davies Charter School"

  1. #1
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    Default Imagining the "Dawn Davies Charter School"

    Eagle-eyed readers of the Town Crier discussion boards may have detected hints of pro Charter School sentiments on the part of resident Dawn Davies. Similar careful observation may have detected whiffs of comparison to international students.

    Being truly interested in improvement in the education delivered by the Wayland Public Schools (WPS), I attempted to engage Ms. Davies in a discussion of the changes that she might make to put Wayland on a path more conducive to her vision. Despite repeated polite entreaties on my part, she continues to decline my offer.

    I've posted my own vision of possible directions for the WPS elsewhere on this Discussion Forum. As Ms. Davies appears uninterested in taking a similar stab, it occurred to me to give it a go on her behalf. Of course, I welcome her corrections where I've misinterpreted her intent.

    The Dawn Davies Charter School

    Mission Statement
    The founding principle of the DDCS is that "back to basics" education
    is the key to creating contented citizens competitive on the global stage.
    The DDCS delivers in part on this principle with a low cost philosophy and as
    measured by top scores on international assessments of student outcomes.

    Central to the founding of the DDCS is the assertion that traditional public education simply isn't working. As such, the following characteristics* describe DDCS' innovative approach.

    • "Back to basics" is our core curriculum belief. We focus on reading, writing, and math at the early grades, with a transition to language arts, math, science, social studies, and foreign languages as our students advance through the grades.

    • Traditional public education provides woefully little time on task. DDCS extends the academic day by a third, from six hours to eight, and the academic year by 10%, from ten months to eleven.

    • The value of small class sizes at all but the earliest grades is simply not substantiated. We assert that our students succeed in larger groups.

    • Co-curricular activities are best left to the family. Private athletic leagues, music groups, and art studios allow our students to select their own course without saddling their fellow classmates with high costs or unnecessary distractions.

    • Transportation costs consume funds otherwise spent on academic achievement. The DDCS provides only the minimum transportation required by law.

    • Teacher unions drive up education costs unacceptably. We provide an inviting work environment and a living wage. The district in which we are situated, the Wayland Public Schools, pays an average salary of just north of $64,000. DDCS salaries average $48,000.

    • On a cost per student basis, public education is simply too expensive. In FY2007, the district in which we're situated, Wayland, spent slightly more than $13,000 per student. DDCS reduces that amount by almost 25%, to $10,000 per student.

    • The net result of the scenario above is that DDCS has a student:educator ratio of about 20:1 compared with WPS' 11:1. Roughly speaking, this adds approximately 6-8 students per DDCS classroom relative to WPS.

    *Note: The comparison above is based on a simplified configuration and budget as outlined in the attached spreadsheet. The numbers don't quite reflect the actual WPS budget, but are directionally right. As always, I encourage people to point out any errors that I may have made. If my imagining of the DDCS misrepresents the model espoused by Ms. Davies, I apologize for the misrepresentation and look forward to the chance to make improvements.

    The question I put to the community is this: Which school system would you prefer for your child or children? While the Wayland Public Schools are certainly not without flaw, and certainly have room for improvement (again, for instance, as I've outlined elsewhere), both in what we currently do and what we might do, I'll keep my children where they are while we work together as a town to continue the necessary improvements.
    Attached Files Attached Files

  2. #2
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    In response to posts by Dawn Davies on the Town Crier discussion boards, I thought that I'd take a shot at "running the numbers" to determine the financial implications of the DDCS principles applied to the Wayland Public Schools.

    First, cut athletics. That saves $600k, or about 2%. Given the DDCS emphasis on core curricular programs, that may mean that the arts go as well. They cost 5%, the cut will be an assumed 3% at the DDCS. That gets the savings up to $1.5M.

    One goal in Ms. Davies' world appears to be reducing taxes (not that there's anything wrong with that). Let's say 10%, with a corresponding budget drop, or about $3M. The DDCS now only needs to cut $1.5M given the co-curricular savings above.

    The DDCS doesn't seem to be overly fond of administrators, so let's take off another $500k there, either by cutting positions or cutting pay. That leaves $1M to cut.

    The DDCS would have a curriculum, but still at the same cost unless there's an open source option.

    Not much can be done about transportation and utilities, nor materials and supplies, so that leaves teachers. A longer day (by 2 hours, or 1/3) and year (from 180 to 220 day, or a bit more than 20%) combines to mean a 60% increase in working ours. To be 'pay neutral,' that would mean a 60% salary jump from the current $25M salary expense, or an added $15M.

    That's the wrong direction, though, as the need is to save $1M or 4% of our $25M salary expense. The difference between the 40% 'pay neutral' amount of $40M and the $24M DDCS-style amount is 40%. So, you're asking teachers to take a 40% pay cut.

    We can get some significant relief here by boosting class size from a WPS 23 to a DDCS 30. That is 1/3 more "efficient." Simplifying the math a bit, that means the teachers only need to take a 7% pay cut. Perhaps not the best recruiting lead, but better than 40%.

    I appreciate that I've made some simplifications. Who knows, maybe I've even made a big assumption or calculation error. I'm happy to correct this if need be.

    So that there's no confusion, the scenario I've outlined in this post and the one above is NOT anything I'm recommending.

  3. #3
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    New information from the Boston Globe on charter schools and their under-representation of struggling students is discussed here.

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