Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Poverty and the Wisconsin School Report Cards

Wisconsin Data
     Wealthiest Counties and % Poverty                                         



·      There are a total of 33 public school districts in the wealthiest counties. 
·      The three county average School District Score was a 77.4 
·      The School Report Card scores for those districts range from Herman @ 64.6 to Swallow @ 88. 

o Eight of the school districts were in the Meet Expectations Category (53-72.9), Nineteen districts were in the Exceeds Expectations Category (73-82.9), and Six were in the Significantly Exceeds Expectations Category (83+).
o   The eight districts scoring @ Meets Expectations had a combined average poverty rate of 32%. 
o   The six districts scoring @ Significantly Exceeds Expectations had a combined average poverty rate of 7.8%
This is key: Even within the wealthiest counties the disparity can be significant.  Waukesha, Hartford Jt.1, and Herman each had poverty rates above 35%, while North Lake, Swallow, and Cedarburg had poverty rates between 0-8%.
        Poorest Counties and % Poverty




·      There are a total of 12 public school districts in the poorest counties. 
·      The four county average School District Score was a 66.1
·      The School Report Card scores for those districts range from Bowler @ 58.4 to Chequamegon @ 72.3. 

o   All of the districts in the poorest counties were in the Meets Expectations Category.
o   The three districts with the lowest scores had a combined average poverty rate of 66.6%. 
o   The three districts with the highest scores had a combined average poverty rate of 54%.
I celebrate the great work that is being done in these high poverty schools to still score in a range that meets the high expectations that Wisconsin has for public schools.  I congratulate the great work that is being done in the low poverty schools to exceed those high expectations
There are many people who argue that poverty is not a factor in determining school performance.  Opinions are fine, but opinions based on actual evidence are golden.  I think poverty is a huge factor in determining school performance and I’ve provided data that supports my belief.  High poverty schools can do great work, but the School District Report Card System is rigged against them. 
Want to offer a different view?  OK, show me your data.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Time to call the Voucher/Charter Movement What It Is

Let's start with some data.  Here are the total private and public school enrollments for the State of Wisconsin 2008-2014, and then again 2000-2004.

*I could've mistyped or incorrectly added any number- doesn't change the obvious

Year   Private Enrollment   Public Enrollment   Total Enrollment   Private %   Public %

2014        119,801                       874,414                  994,215                12             88
2013        122,949                       872,436                  995,385                12.4          87.6
2012        124,668                       871,105                  995,770                12.5          87.5
2011        125,372                       872,286                  997,658                12.6          87.4
2010        126,812                       872,436                  999,248                12.7          87.3
2009        130,800                       873,586               1,004,386                13             87
2008        133,606                       874,633               1,008,239                13.3          86.7

2004        137,852                       880,031               1,017,883                13.5          86.5
2003        142,619                       881,231               1,023,850                13.9          86.1
2002        146,145                       879,361               1,025,506                14.2          85.8
2001        148,336                       879,476               1,027,812                14.4          85.6

Three obvious facts:

1.  We are a declining enrollment state.

2.  The overall percentage of students attending public and private schools has remained remarkably steady

3.  The overall percentage of students attending private schools is down slightly

Here is my story built on those facts.

The last decade or so has seen unprecedented attacks on public schools.  The drumbeat of negativity is relentless.  Public schools are failing.  We are a nation at risk.  Public schools are horrible.  Achievement is down.  Have you heard that the Common Core is teaching students to masturbate?  What we need is a voucher in every backpack.  School Choice is the answer.  On and on and on it goes.

All politics is local.

I believe that the public is buying into this national, and statewide narrative, even as they continue to believe that THEIR local school is basically fine.  If there was ever going to be a decade when people abandoned their crummy local school in favor of a superior private experience- it would've been the last one.  And yet, the percentage of people attending public schools has remained relatively constant.  

In the meantime, those who would seek to destroy public education have slowly accumulated political power- and they aim to use that power.

The public has bought the overall narrative, and they don't see the negative consequences at the local level, so they are silent to supportive of many education reform efforts.

Well, the time has come to say ENOUGH.  Public schools serve most students in most communities, often the most vulnerable.  Public schools are not failing- that argument is built on manufactured data. 

Do you know why people around here support Friess Lake School?  Because we're good!  You know what else we are?  Very much like most other public schools. 

Governor Walker's budget is bad for public education.  It is bad for the almost 90% of students served by public schools.  It is bad for the State of Wisconsin.

Monday, February 9, 2015

WisTax Analysis of Governor's Budget Proposal

Here is an article from the non-partisan folks at WisTax that shows the impact to K-12 education of the Governor's budget proposal.

I thought we made tough decisions and fixed the big problems in the last biennial budget.  I thought things were "working" so well that the state had a surplus.  My question is:  Why do we have a deficit again? 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Successful Schools Act- Um, no thank you

The latest piece of legislative idiocy to grace the national stage is the U.S. House's Successful Schools Act.  It is a classic diatribe against federal overreach and in favor of a lower federal role in education.  

I think the bill is poorly researched and based on "ideology math."  Here's my own poorly researched rebuttal.  I'm using actual data, but I'm putting it together and creating comparisons as I see fit.  In other words, I'm doing exactly what the bills authors and supporters did.  The only difference is that I'm writing a blog post, they're writing legislation.

For the purposes of illustration, I'm going to focus on a few key numbers from two states- Mississippi and Minnesota.  Minnesota is both my home state and the home of the bills primary author.  Mississippi is the alpha to Minnesota's omega on, well, pretty much everything... 

It's a Republican sponsored bill.  The State of Mississippi has four Representatives in the U.S. House, three of whom are Republicans.  I think it is safe to say that they have, or will, vote in favor of the bill.  Fine.  But remember, a key goal of the bill is to reduce the role of the federal government in K-12 education.  Here are a few easily obtainable facts regarding current federal education spending in two states, Mississippi and Minnesota. 

  • Mississippi receives $2,052 federal dollars per student (2011 data),
  • Minnesota receives $1,080 federal dollars per student 

  • Mississippi, with a K-12 public school enrollment of 490,619, receives $193,652,568 in Title I funds  ($395/student)* 
  • Minnesota, with a K-12 public school enrollment of 839,738, receives $176,949, 502 in Title I funds  ($211/student)*
So, even though the conservative firebrand anti-federal government language and sentiment often appears to be strongest in the south- it also appears that they will take the money.

Let's set aside questions of how and why the federal government role in education expanded in the first place, or how and why so many southern states had a flurry of private academies open in the mid-1960's, or how and why states like Minnesota routinely have much higher educational achievement than states like Mississippi.  All great questions, but for another time.

I have a simple proposal: Let's just reduce the amount of federal education dollars flowing into Mississippi to the amount flowing into Minnesota.  Or, take an average of federal education dollars flowing into the old Confederate States and reduce it to the average of federal education dollars flowing into the Union States. 

The cost savings would be enormous.  Problem solved- as I can't imagine that any new problems could possibly be created.  Looks like we're all done here.  You're Welcome!

*Yes, I understand that Title I funds are not distributed on a per student basis.  In fact, they are distributed on a series of formulas based on poverty rates.  Mississippi has more people living in poverty than Minnesota.  It shouldn't though- seeing as how it is a right to work state with low taxation and low government spending.  One would think that Mississippi would be THE STATE that conservatives would hold up as an example of all that is pure and right and good.  A beacon on the hill, or, more apropos, the Darling of the Delta.

Just guessing, but my hunch is that the Mississippi Legislators subscribe to the theory that federal government spending doesn't help reduce poverty.  So, my plan should provide an easy way for them to walk their talk.