The adage "Sunlight is the best disinfectant," has been applied to government, big business and...household cleaning, I think. Its application to the Alexandria City Public Schools is an apt one, as well. So much that is wrong with ACPS can be traced to back door deals, secret contracts, no-bid contracts, sweetheart contracts, conehead contracts (just checking to see if you are reading carefully), fudging of numbers, obfuscating test scores and results, manipulating data and changing grades. Bringing to light the way in which our superintendent and his "people" operate is not only a good idea, it's something that the city's taxpayers should demand. Borrowing unapologetically from the Center for American Progress study last month, let's examine how their general recommendations should be applied to ACPS
INEFFICIENT SCHOOL SYSTEMS REPRESENT A SIGNIFICANT REFORM OPPORTUNITY. IF SCHOOL SYSTEMS SPENT THEIR DOLLARS MORE PRODUCTIVELY, MANY WOULD SEE LARGE GAINS IN STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT….OUR DATA SHOW THAT 41 STATES SHOW THE POTENTIAL FOR DOUBLE-DIGIT PERCENTAGE INCREASES IN ACHIEVEMENT WITHOUT NECESSARILY SPENDING ADDITIONAL FUNDS.
Perhaps the most damning comment, because it is on all fours with ACPS and its spending. Simply put, we are literally throwing money at people and products with no notion of whether they are worthwhile. Many of the programs in ACPS are either at odds with one another or are not in synch with one another. Many are redundant, untested, and are siphoning off the twin resources of money and classroom time. If Mort really cares, if we would all like to see a double digit increase in achievement, let's open the books and start examining which, if any, of the current programs and initiatives are productive.
LOW PRODUCTIVITY IS COSTING THE NATION’S SCHOOL SYSTEM AS MUCH AS $175 BILLION A YEAR. AFTER ADJUSTMENTS, DISTRICTS WITH BELOW AVERAGE PRODUCTIVITY SPENT OVER $950 MORE PER STUDENT THAN DID ABOVE-AVERAGE DISTRICTS.
ACPS is as guilty as any, here. While there is not so much of a particular recommendation to be gleaned from this finding, we are spending more than most and getting little in return.
WITHOUT CLEAR CONTROLS ON HOW ADDITIONAL SCHOOL DOLLARS ARE SPENT, MORE EDUCATION SPENDING WILL NOT AUTOMATICALLY IMPROVE STUDENT OUTCOMES: MONEY MATTERS ONLY IF IT’S SPENT IN EFFECTIVE WAYS, AT LEAST ABOVE SOME THRESHOLD LEVEL, AND THAT WITHOUT A SYSTEMIC APPROACH TO SPENDING, UNFOCUSED INCREASES IN EXPENDITURES ARE NOT LIKELY TO HAVE ANY IMPACT ON STUDENT OUTCOMES.
ACPS has no clear controls on spending. The glut of dollars at TC has only exacerbated the problem. The subject area experts should be the ones who determine what is a worthwhile expenditure and they should submit their needs to the administration. It makes no sense to let a group of empty suits and pant suits determine what is best for our classrooms!
STUDENTS FROM DISADVANTAGED BACKGROUNDS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE ENROLLED IN INEFFICIENT DISTRICTS: OUR DATA SHOWED THAT STUDENTS WHO PARTICIPATED IN THE SUBSIDIZED-LUNCH PROGRAM WERE 12 PERCENTAGE POINTS MORE LIKELY TO BE ENROLLED IN THE NATION’S LEAST-PRODUCTIVE DISTRICTS THAN THE MOST PRODUCTIVE.
ACPS is the very population cited, here. And it's, in large part, why Sherman and his minions are allowed to run ACPS the way they do. Does anyone think, for one minute, that St. Stephen's/St. Agnes or Bishop Ireton would allow spending to go unchecked as it does in our public schools?
HIGHLY PRODUCTIVE DISTRICTS ARE FOCUSED ON IMPROVING STUDENT OUTCOMES: THEY SHARED A NUMBER OF ATTRIBUTES, SUCH AS BUILDING SUPPORT WITHIN THEIR COMMUNITIES FOR PRODUCTIVITY REFORMS AND USING DATA-MINING PRACTICES TO REDUCE INEFFICIENCIES.
ACPS has abandoned the notion of data-mining, of late. Some say the reason is that the results would not support the many initiatives that have been forced upon the teachers. Some say the data would not point us to the costly consultant-peddled programs--Lucy Caulkins, anyone? Let's see some real data, not the type designed to reach a desired outcome.
STATES AND DISTRICTS FAIL TO EVALUATE THE PRODUCTIVITY OF SCHOOLS AND DISTRICTS:. ONLY TWO STATES, FLORIDA AND TEXAS, CURRENTLY PROVIDE ANNUAL SCHOOL-LEVEL PRODUCTIVITY EVALUATIONS.
ACPS should be all about this one!
THE QUALITY OF EDUCATION DATA IS OFTEN POOR, WHICH IMPEDES THE STUDY OF EDUCATIONAL PRODUCTIVITY. IN FAR TOO MANY CASES, CRUCIAL DATA ON SCHOOL FINANCE, OPERATIONS, AND OUTCOMES ARE UNAVAILABLE, MAKING IT DIFFICULT TO ACCURATELY MEASURE THE ACHIEVEMENT THAT A SCHOOL DISTRICT PRODUCES RELATIVE TO ITS EXPENDITURES.
ACPS should be making this information easily accessible and digestible. Additionally, it's this very kind of data that should be used to determine current and future programs and their efficacy.
THE NATION’S LEAST-PRODUCTIVE DISTRICTS SPEND MORE ON ADMINISTRATION THE MOST INEFFICIENT DISTRICTS IN THE COUNTRY DEVOTE AN EXTRA 3 PERCENTAGE POINTS OF THEIR BUDGETS ON AVERAGE TO ADMINISTRATION, OPERATIONS, AND OTHER NONINSTRUCTIONAL EXPENDITURES.
Anyone notice the bloat and waste in ACPS administration. Honestly, how often is administration ever helpful to you in your teaching practices? Let's eliminate positions and let's reduce salaries, tying them to performance.
"It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong."