Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bang for the buck...or passing the buck? (Part I)

Tonight, the Alexandria City Public School board will take up the twin issues of the extended school day and year.  Let's be clear...these are expensive propositions.  No matter how you come down on the issue of compensating teachers for the added days and hours and the ever-morphing rationale for considering them, keeping the schools open for increased hours and days costs--a lot!

If the argument could be made that Alexandria makes the most of its education dollar, then we might have the makings of an intelligent debate.  Unfortunately, a recent study by The Center for American Progress lists ACPS near the very bottom when it comes to getting the greatest return on monies invested in our students' education.

As the introduction to the study makes clear, "This report is the culmination of a yearlong effort to study the efficiency of the nation’s public education system and includes the first-ever attempt to evaluate the productivity of almost every major school district in the country. In the business world, the notion of productivity describes the benefit received in exchange for effort or money expended. Our project measures the academic achievement a school district produces relative to its educational spending, while controlling for factors outside a district’s control, such as cost of living and students in poverty."

The typical excuses carry no water in the analysis.  Even accounting for the factors listed above, cost of living and poverty, Alexandria ranks among the very worst in Virginia.  The beauty of this study is that the data is easily accessible and set up in a user-friendly format.   The accompanying color-coded, interactive map highlights the degree of waste, incompetence and educational negligence associated with ACPS.  To be fair, the study is based on pre-Sherman data, though preliminary numbers during Mort's reign look even worse.  

This weekend Voltaire will look more in-depth at the inefficiency that this study reveals.

"Optimism is the madness of insisting that all is well when we are miserable."
— Voltaire


  1. Pre-Sherman data? That is exactly the point. The problem is a long standing one. While his data may or not be worse, the solution will not reverse the trend overnight. He is not the problem and as long as the focus is on him it will distract from fixing the real problem. Teachers are not the problem either, parents are not the problem, kids are not the problem, but a system in which the players do not agree on how to move forward is the problem.

  2. Yes it will be an interesting read. Hopefully it won't go the way of the Forbes listing 3 or 4 years ago, where ACPS ranked pretty low as well. The response from the then Sup, was to blame, the number of ELL, free and reduced lunch students and special education population. Problem is that population is a large portion of the total student population, if you fail them, you fail-Don't blame them teach them.