Wednesday, April 21, 2010
My current-events reading today featured a collision mix.
I started with the IHE and Chronicle accounts of this year's AACC meeting, which is focused largely on improving 'completion' at the community college level. The idea is to reduce the number of students who drop out, and to increase the number who complete their intended course of study, whether that leads to a degree, a certificate, or a successful transfer after a year. While I have my own reservations about particular methods and definitions, I have to agree that the impulse and direction are good. Let's find ways to help more students succeed. With ya.
Then, that very same day, this, from the New York Times:
School districts around the country, forced to resort to drastic money-saving measures, are warning hundreds of thousands of teachers that their jobs may be eliminated in June.
Hmm. Well, maybe it's just posturing. Surely they aren't talking specifics?
A survey by the American Association of School Administrators found that 9 of 10 superintendents expected to lay off school workers for the fall, up from two of three superintendents last year. The survey also found that the percentage considering a four-day school week had jumped to 13 percent, from 2 percent a year ago.
Okay, not encouraging. I wouldn't expect students to use their Fridays off to do physics problem sets. But it isn't really that bad, right?
In the U-46 district in Elgin, Ill., José M. Torres, the superintendent, said he also had to contend with a budgeting roller coaster this spring. At this point, the only uncertainty is whether the district’s 53 schools in Chicago’s western suburbs will feel “high pain or low pain,” Mr. Torres said.
Seeking to cut at least $44 million from the district’s $400 million budget, Mr. Torres has eliminated early childhood classes for 100 children, cut middle school football, increased high school class sizes from 24 to 30 students, drained swimming pools to save chlorine, and dismissed 1,000 employees, including 700 teachers.
I'll admit not minding the pool part -- never been a fan, myself -- or the football. But eliminating early childhood classes, increasing sizes of high school classes, and firing 700 teachers doesn't quite sit right.
The research I've seen suggests pretty clearly that students with strong academic preparation in high school tend to do better in college. Some of that may reflect inherent talent and/or good habits, but some of it may also reflect actually learning something in high school. Hollowing out the K-12 system will pretty clearly overwhelm any adjustments we can make internally at the cc.
If we thought in terms of systems, shoring up the K-12 system would be an excellent college completion initiative.
As collision mixes go, this one was especially jarring. There's 'juxtaposition,' and then there's 'insanity.' This is insane. And unlike a collision mix on the radio, the effects will last far beyond a couple of three minute songs.
our system is built upon 'seat time' (as you've called it), and not comprehension provability. students don't 'graduate' to the next level/grade because they've shown a core understanding of a curriculum. instead, they move on because the Earth traveled a certain distance around the sun. to be fair, college isn't any different. it's a pretty stupid concept.
if schools would recognize that providing opportunities to kids who excel, they can get those kids onto college quicker, and save themselves money in the process.
it's a rough situation, because public schooling is a place where performance has little to no relation to funding. in the end, the good schools are hurting as much as the bad ones. our school district is a little better off, because they were smart enough to create a rainy day fund, and they have some money to weather this storm (they are still on a hiring freeze, and are still cutting back). there won't be any layoffs thanks to some administrators who had some foresight.
We have cut 20% of our certified teaching staff. 60% of our budget for early childhood as evaporated in one fell swoop of the state's hand (and we have a model program that gives our highest-risk students persistent gains that last for years AND gets a lot of their parents through their AAs). We've noticed the entire administration building, frozen salaries across the board, and are looking at further, deep cuts in non-cert staff. Almost all our state's stimulus money from ARRA went into paying the state's general obligations to school districts (the money we were supposed to be getting they didn't bother to budget for and were more than 90 days behind on their payments).
We're trying to cut around $21 million from a $150 million budget, the bulk of which is in salaries and benefits (around 85%, I think).
Also, not sure if you're aware, but most schools looking at 4-day weeks are rural districts serving sprawling areas, whose gasoline bills for the busses are significant, and cutting out a day creates significant savings. Urban and suburban districts are mostly not considering it because it doesn't create much savings for them.
The negative thing is that the current tenor of the conversation is to scapegoat teachers and their unions.