How do we get to a fair funding formula?

Jarod Apperson recently wrote a response to one of Maureen Downey’s articles about the new proposed teacher salary model. He is a graduate of NYU in both finance and accounting, Apperson is pursing a doctorate in economics at Georgia State University, focusing on education data analysis. He writes the Grading Atlanta blog and serves on the board of the public, non-profit charter Kindezi Schools.

Having a focus on education data analysis and Ph.D. in economics I would ask Jarod what he thinks would be an acceptable new funding formula. Maybe he has made a recommendation and I have missed it?

Maureen agrees with Jarod in this synopsis of his comments:

It makes no sense to rely on the Legislature for a deep-dive reform of education. Lawmakers have neither the expertise to address what are complex questions nor the ability to respond with agility and accuracy to the fast-changing education landscape, witnessed by the fact the funding formula they’re attempting to revise goes back three decades.

Jarod describes the current formula this way:

Our current funding system, introduced in 1985, is complicated but the crux of it can be boiled down to this:  about 63 percent of the money earned is based on needs of the students served while 37 percent of the money is driven by characteristics of the teachers employed, incentivizing schools to hire teachers who fit certain profiles that the state deems more valuable.

A state-level incentive structure makes sense if legislatures are incentivizing schools to do things that lead to greater achievement, but it is inefficient if the state is incentivizing things that don’t work.

The evidence suggests that Georgia’s Legislature is not very good at prescribing education approaches, and the current incentive structure implemented by the state does not align with what we know about the relative value of training and experience.

His demonstration of the legislature incentivizing things that do not lead to greater student achievement is how the pay scale jumps greatly for advanced degrees, but takes a teacher with a bachelor’s degree 14 years to make the same as a teacher with an advanced degree and no teaching experience. He recommends that we reward years of experience over the advanced degree also in an effort to retain our teachers.

For example, there is clear evidence teacher experience matters, and year-to-year improvements are particularly dramatic early in a teacher’s career. A fifth-year teacher is substantially more effective than a rookie.

If the state’s incentive structure were strategic, it would give teachers large raises in the first five years. Instead, Georgia teacher earnings grow a paltry $2,036 over that period, or about 1.5 percent a year. That’s measly compared to the early-career salary growth seen in other skilled professions like technology, accounting or engineering.

Rather than paying teachers substantially more as they gain valuable early-career experience, the state offers huge incentives for something that does not lead to greater student achievement: advanced degrees.

In Georgia, it takes 14 years for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree to reach the starting salary of someone with zero experience and a specialist degree.  This emphasis on advanced degrees over experience is not strategic. It doesn’t benefit students and doesn’t make teaching a more attractive profession. Instead, the only real winners from this scheme are the degree-granting institutions that collect tuition from Georgia’s teachers.

Funding formulas are a problem all over the country. Some legislatures, like in Massachusetts, don’t want to admit that they haven’t met their own benchmark for funding schools because of the automatic infusion of cash required to fix it. So they make little tweaks to get by, but won’t commit to really fully funding schools.

The one thing I will say for Massachusetts that I don’t believe Georgia does, is MA adjusts its state contribution based on a formula of what the LEA can pay. In Worcester, the state paid ~75% of the total LEA budget. But in other LEA’s where the city could pay more of their share, the state paid a smaller % (and because the communities were affluent the cities contributed funds over the budgeted amount). It appears that in DeKalb County, the state contributes closer to 30% of the costs to run the school system and the county has to make up the remaining 70%.

It also sounds like the state is in a catch 22 where I assume the legislators want to see progress before they contribute more funding, but the schools are trying to say they need more funding to demonstrate progress.



Unsupported comments on OSD

Unsupported comments on OSD

This week I attended a launch meeting of the Delta Teacher Efficacy Campaign, a collaboration aimed at enhancing student academic achievement by focusing on helping educators. I ended up arriving half way through, but made it in time for the Q & A session. The panelists were Valarie Wilson, head of GA School Board Association; Tyler Barr – head of GA PTA, and Dr. Beasley who is a DeKalb Schools administrator.

Interestingly, the Opportunity School District legislation was a hot topic. It was the first question asked of the panelists.

© Paynich

© Paynich

Valarie Wilson stated on behalf of the GA School Board Association that they oppose OSD in part because it doesn’t state how they are going to help the schools get better and its all about money and procedure.

They asked how many people knew about OSD and only a few hands raised. They kept encouraging folks to read the legislation.

She spoke about how they were working to get schools of the OSD eligibility list. I keep asking “Why did we need to have this proposed legislation to start working on things those schools needed to be done?” and now I am thinking, are we going to stop helping those schools get better after they “get off the list”?

She said that the schools aren’t really failing and its just a scare tactic for shock value to push the legislation. Hmm, that’s a first one I’ve heard. What would you consider failing Ms. Wilson? I think the district clearly has enough problems that failing might be the right way to characterize. Besides, when you don’t admit to what’s wrong with the schools, we also aren’t fixing them.

At the end of the forum I asked two questions: Why now, to help those schools “get off the list,” and if you are such an advocate of equity of school funding – why are you against OSD?

Valarie claims that the work was being done already and that this is just a formal way of recognizing it. She didn’t answer my equity question but did go on to talk about how more affluent communities should be more accepting of funds flowing from their communities to the more at risk communities. However, using school funds to give to state determined failing schools to make them better isn’t the exact same thing???

Beasley said that the Governor doesn’t have any interest in helping our schools and they we, the community and school department have the ability to help our schools. So….WHY haven’t you been doing it??

I have yet to find a legitimate reason not to go forward with the OSD.

Don’t placate us, fix our schools!

Don’t placate us, fix our schools!

This week I attended a launch meeting of the Delta Teacher Efficacy Campaign, a collaboration aimed at enhancing student academic achievement by focusing on helping educators. I ended up arriving half way through, but made it in time for the Q & A session. Here’s one question from a parent that really stood out for me.

This parent stated that she is afraid to send her child to her local public schools in Lithonia and pays to send her child to private Christian school. She wants to know what she should do? (Basically, your schools suck, what are you going to do about it?)

© Paynich

© Paynich

The panelists were Valarie Wilson, head of GA School Board Association; Tyler Barr – head of GA PTA, and Dr. Beasley who is a DeKalb Schools administrator. Beasley replied by noting that schools are a reflection of our community and we should work to get to know our principals. Which I agree with – if the principal is willing to work with parents (unlike former Avondale Elem principal who reined for 10 years!)

He mentioned that we have a great school choice program in DeKalb, basically saying that if you don’t like your school, no problem, go pick one of the others. Problem with that is – parents have to provide their own transportation. What if it isn’t possible for this parent to drop off and pick up at a school across the county?

Basically, he never answered the question. He never admitted any wrong doing, or fault on behalf of the county. This is one of the reasons charter schools are popular, especially in underserved areas. They offer a choice that may not be too far away for a parent to provide transportation. They offer a choice to parents who are otherwise forced to send their child to a private school and pay out of pocket.

There are stories like this all over the state, the country and we are paying them lip service by no fixing those schools. Here is the parent comment from a former post of mine on this topic:

She is entering Kindergarten next year. It’s too late for her to go to a public charter school to get picked for the lottery. The schools around one of her homes (she has 3—long story, don’t ask) is BAD, the school around her other home is WORSE and the school around her last home is THE WORST. She’s a smart kid and I only want the best for her. Private school isn’t a viable option at this point.

We need to do better.



Meeting DeKalb School Supt. Green

Great to meet New DeKalb School Superintendent Green last night at Leadership DeKalb’s event last night! 200 people RSVP’d and it was my first time at the Mary Gay HoGreen at leadership dekalb eventuse in Decatur. Only 45 days on the job and everyone seems optimistic about his potential for success.

Take aways:

He says all administrative staff were out in schools for the first day. This was partially in response to my desire to see Department administration cleaned out and when I mentioned that there is a big disconnect between district admin and implementation at the school level. Admin’s job is not “done” when they develop a program or curriculum. they need to see it through to the classroom.

He said that we are going to get academic achievement up one way or another (not 100% sure what the “other” way is)

When taking about cleaning house, he said he has already started and when I mentioned the nepotism, he said “if they are qualified and are doing the job” but I told him I don’t want to hear any more stories about someone’s son or daughter, cousin or whatever with a job at the school department to give them a job.

I explained my experience with substitute teachers in DeKalb. How I couldn’t get a spot as a sub when I first moved here, but that there is now a huge gap of sub opportunities not being filled.

I explained that it needs to be ok to fail, and how I knew of a situation where a school got “all hands on deck” for a state review, but was awful most of the time.

He agreed that middle school is critical to college and career readiness, and also made an interesting comment. He said he doesn’t like school counselors, that all the counselors he has met didn’t care about counseling students and they simply wanted to do admin work. I told him about how in RI you have to be a teacher for 3 years before you can be a counselor and seemed to me that the lackluster teachers just got a cushy job at the counselors office.

I’m just hoping he doesn’t mean that school counselors aren’t critical to student success when he said he would rather have hired someone else for the counselors spot. I am hoping he said that because that person was ineffective and not because he doesn’t believe in the work of school counselors.



Dekalb County’s 6th superintendent in 11 years

Dekalb County’s 6th superintendent in 11 years

Starting July 1, 2015, DeKalb County, GA schools will have a new Superintendent – 6th superintendent in 11 years time. Let’s hope the Board got it right this time.

I am hopeful because there was a national search, Dr. Green appears to have been successful in his posts prior to the position, he seems like a genuine guy in interviews and I appreciate the most that he has children and grandchildren here in DeKalb county, one of which will be attending a DeKalb county school. For an out of state Superintendent, he has skin in the game. And the one thing we needed was an outsider. It’s quite likely that our current superintendent, Michael Thurmond is planning to run for statewide office, or some other position and needs to maintain relative goodwill among the central office staff. He refused to do any house cleaning at the school department. I’m hopeful that an outsider like Dr. Green will do the necessary house cleaning in the central office staff – and why don’t you replace a few principals too?

The district is in dire need of stabilization as well. Being the 6th Superintendent in 11 years is not a good thing at all. Here the DeKalb School Watch Two blog reports on the turmoil which has occurred throughout the various superintendents and their ethical and criminal violations.

Of course DeKalb School Watch Two tears into Dr. Green because they think he’s success has been embellished. And here’s the info on his contract, which I agree with some of their questions – but if he can clean house and lead us to actual success in DeKalb it will be worth it. Here are more details on his biography & contract details.

I have heard too many stories about nepotism and friends and family jobs that they aren’t qualified for or are not performing at. Or just getting a big salary. The first thing I want to see is cleaning house. I don’t know how many times I have been conned into thinking a staff person is a legit person to find out from others what a fake they are. There is only one person on the central office payroll I trust and she’s doing what she is told so she doesn’t get fired, but she’d can do her job to her fullest.

Only time will tell.