Monthly Archives: November 2013

Pre-K programs still not helping kids

In an article entitled, “Study: Nope, government pre-K programs still not actually helping kids,”  published on HotAir.com, Mary Katherine Hamm writes that the Head Start program has been a big, disappointing flop.  She quotes extensively from the second government study on the program which anyone interested in early childhood education should read – especially with our debate about full-time kindergarten.

http://hotair.com/archives/2013/11/20/study-nope-universal-pre-k-programs-still-not-actually-helping-kids/

Here’s an excerpt discussing the Tennessee Voluntary Pre-kindergarten (TN VPK) program:

The Vanderbilt researchers summarize their findings:

The relatively large effects of TN‐VPK on the Woodcock Johnson achievement measures found at the end of the pre‐k year were greatly diminished and no longer statistically significant at the end of the kindergarten year. The only exception was a marginally significant negative effect on Passage Comprehension such that nonparticipants had higher scores at the end of the kindergarten year than TN‐VPK participants.

Similarly, at the end of first grade, there were no statistically significant differences between TN‐VPK participants and nonparticipants on the Woodcock Johnson achievement measures with one exception. There was a significant difference that favored the nonparticipant group on the Quantitative Concept subscale.

These diminished effects were not entirely unexpected in light of the findings in other longitudinal studies of the effects of early childhood programs on economically disadvantaged children. For preschool programs, a typical finding is that the cognitive effects are not sustained for very long after that initial year.

Whitehurst puts it in graph form. A shorthand explanation: If the bar is below the zero line, the control group of non-pre-K kids beat out the pre-K kids. If it’s above the zero line, the pre-K kids outperformed. Ouch:

graph pre-K

I urge you to read the entire article.

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The Argument the Administration Didn’t Want You To See

Note:  About two and a half hours after this posting was made, my materials were added to the Timberlane website. [DG  11/20/2013]

In conscientious preparation for the Budget Committee meeting on Nov. 14th,  many hours went into the preparation of a summary spreadsheet of the school district budget showing historical comparisons.  The SAU did not let me use the meeting room’s technology in order to present this spreadsheet, or the PowerPoint presentation that went along with it.  Instead, I had to hand out paper copies to my fellow budget committee members at the meeting, copies the SAU refused to make or distribute for me.  The administration is also refusing [see clarification at bottom] to put this material on the budget committee’s website with the minutes of the Nov. 14th meeting, despite the fact that the material  forms part of the public proceedings. They don’t want you to see these documents. It would interrupt the spin. They say their proposed budget is up just 4%. In fact, it is up 5.5%. (Dr. Metzler suggested he would come back with a slimmed down budget on Nov. 26th.  We’ll see what’s offered.)

For the curious, for those concerned with their taxes, for those who think education can’t be fixed with a check, here is the spreadsheet (now updated with the very most recent information) and the PowerPoint slides.  I proposed a bottom line budget of $64 million, which represents a small increase over this current year’s budget (adjusted to reflect the change in the way SAU is to be budgeted for 2014-15 and thereafter).  My motion to this effect was voted down by the budget committee, with only Cathy Gorman of Sandown supporting.  Keep in mind, the district has been running $2 million surpluses, yet, like someone in need of a gastric bypass at an all-you-can-eat buffet, they continue to ask for more… more…. MORE…..  all the while enrollment is declining.

Nov. 15. Budget Analysis 2014-2015

2014-2015 Proposed Budget 64 million dollar question

As for getting my material televised at the meeting and on the screen for better explanation to my peers, here’s what the administration expected me to do:   “Attached are the guidelines for presentations.  Once all guidelines are met, the technology dept will review and upon approval, will make the presentation available at the respective meetings.”  Only one person in the technology department, namely, Mr. Holland, seems to vet presentations in the meeting room and he was not available the day of the meeting, and from the fact he didn’t apologize for not being able to assist me, I wonder if he even knew of my request.  Forget, if you can,  the childishness of requiring an elected member of the budget committee to vet their presentations through a teacher/department head.  Instead,  get a charge out of the presentation guidelines below – guidelines so important that they prevented me from making my presentation available on broadcast and on the screen in the meeting room.  I will hear you laughing from here, if you are not fuming as I am.  In the meantime I am grateful private business does not operate like this.  Truth be told,  I doubt even the school district really operates like this.  EffectivePPTvideo

CLARIFICATION: The chairman of the Budget Committee, Greg Spero, deserves thanks for intervening here and requesting my documents be added to the website.  Although I was told Mr. Stokinger would not distribute any material for whose accuracy he could not personally vouch, the SAU did not say outright they refused to post my materials: they simply ignored my repeated requests to do so.

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Filed under Budget 2014-2015, Budget Committee, Sandown Issues, SAU 55 Issues

Throwing money at a problem money can’t fix

Timberlane’s student population had a healthy bulge in 2007-2008 when kindergarten was introduced.  Since then it has been steadily and decidedly losing students.  Don’t think the district’s budget would shrink because of fewer tender minds.  No, instead, the district’s operating budget has markedly increased, making per pupil costs skyrocket as SAT scores slid.

                        2007/8        2013/14

Students      4,653              3,924        Enrollment:  -15.67%

Expended    $56.3 mil       $65 mil (budgeted)       +15.55%* 

Per pupil cost: +26.18%*  since 2008  (inflation adjusted)

Should the proposed budget for 2014-2015 pass as proposed,  per pupil cost would show a staggering 33.70% increase since 2008.

Are students, parents and taxpayers getting value from this lavish increase in budgets?  On the contrary.  SAT scores are abysmal.

I asked the NH Department of Education for Timberlane’s historical SAT scores.  They provided test results from 2000-2001 (with 2009-2010 and 2010-20011 missing).  Our district’s highest combined reading and math score was 1029 way back in 2004.  Since then it has been a downward slide.  2013’s combined score is a disappointing 993.  This is significantly higher than last year’s depressing 976, and with encouraging improvement in math, but still nothing to celebrate, though one hopes it is the beginning of an upward trend. The national average for SAT combined scores in 2013 was 1010.

Our district has been throwing money at an academic problem that is not solved with money, fancy software, state of the art student surveys, or a new mini-gym.  It is solved by teacher and administrator accountability and merit pay.

P.S. The SAU budget this year is up 10.75%.   The proposed school district budget is up 5.76% before the effect of warrant articles, one of which will be to approve an entirely new collective bargaining unit for 167 staff.

*If 2014 budget is completely expended

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Filed under Budget 2014-2015, Budget Committee, Sandown Issues, SAU 55 Issues

2013 NH SAT Scores: Independent schools shine

New Hampshire’s SAT scores for 2013 are on the Department of Education website.  To view it, you will need to scroll down to the very bottom of the page in the link given here.  Look hard for “SAT data and reports.”  (If you were looking for it without this link, you need to know it is filed under “Miscellaneous Reports” which sure gives me a warm feeling about how my burning interests are shared by the DOE.)           SAT report

In case you are in suspense, public schools lagged far behind “Independent” schools which also surpassed parochial schools.  Some of these independent schools are charter schools which receive just $5,500 per student in funding from the state.  Timberlane’s per pupil cost is slightly over $13,000 as of 2012.  (It is more now.)

If you have time, browse through the entire SAT report.  They have teased the data apart LARGELY in ways that make for excuses:  ethnicity, family income and background, gender…  all considerations that are insulting to the individual student who goes to school to be respected as an individual of equal capability as his fellows unless shown otherwise by his or her own performance.

Significantly, the SAT report does not show the results from individual schools or districts, which is the main concern of parents and taxpayers.  Thankfully,  Timberlane’s promised annual district report card  should show Timberlane student results, but we have to hope the statistics will be more up-to-date than they were in the 2013 report which showed just 2011 SAT results.  Those result were, lamentably, below the state average in all three tested disciplines – critical reading, math and writing.   To view 2013 Timberlane District Report Card

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