Guest Contribution by Arthur Green
We are going to be hearing a lot about staffing and enrollment this budget season.
A quick case study may help sort out the spin from the reality. For no reason in particular, let’s turn our gaze on Danville Elementary School
The most recent complete staffing and enrollment figures available from the NH Department of Education (DOE) are for the last academic year, 2013/14, so we will focus on that year. Here’s the DOE link to this information: Danville.
Total enrollment was 300 (again, that is for 2013/14).
I’m going to focus on grades 1-5, because the NH DOE excludes the Kindergarten and pre-K enrollment and teachers from the student/teacher calculation.
Let’s look at class size first.
|Grade||Students||Classes||Average||Max Class Size|
The Maximum Class Size column is based on Timberlane district policy IIB. We can see that the 26 Third Grade students exceeded the max size for that grade level by 3 students, resulting in 2 Third Grade classes with 13 students each. For the Fifth Grade group, the 56 students could have been organized into 2 classes of 28, but this would have exceeded policy at that grade level by 2 students per class. As a result, we see 3 Fifth Grade classes with an average size of 19 students each.
Staffing is reported by the district for each school. Here’s an example of the Danville A12B 2013-14. The numbers are “Full-Time Equivalent” staff… not an employee headcount, but rather a sum of all the full- time plus part-time hours. For example, we see 6.5 administrative /other support staff, which could be made up of 5 full-time staff plus 3 half-timers. In other words, there could be 8 staff members, but 6.5 “Full-Time Equivalent” staff. The district’s staffing report is broken down by Male/Female teachers, and is not summed, so I am going to regroup the information and add subtotals and totals below. Trust me, this blur of numbers becomes interesting very soon.
Student/teacher ratio as calculated by NH DOE excludes Kindergarten and pre-K students and their teachers. The number of students at Danville in grades 1-5 is 245. The highlighted staff above – 25.3 full time equivalents — are the grade 1-5 teachers for both regular and special ed.
245 students in grades 1-5 divided by 25.3 regular and special ed teachers gives a ratio of 9.7 Students per Teacher.
The NH DOE does not report a student/teacher ratio by individual school. The individual school numbers are aggregated to give the district’s student/teacher ratio. For Timberlane last year, that ratio was 11.3.Danville’s 9.7 means Danville has fewer students per teacher than the district average.
In Danville, the average class size of 17.5 students coexists with a student/teacher ratio of 9.7, because there are 25.3 teachers and only 14 classes. Of course there are reasons there are more teachers than classes… Special Ed, music, phys ed. etc.
It is also interesting to note that the 300 students at this school are supported by a total staff of 67.1 adults in all roles.. an overall ratio of 4.5 students for each adult. Also, setting aside administrative and support staff there are a total of 56 educators and instructional aides taking care of the needs of the 300 students, a ratio of 5.4 students per educator. These are not metrics tracked by the NH DOE.
Of course no analysis would be complete without a look back. This blog has been using the 2007/08 year as our comparison point because that was the district’s recent peak enrollment. In the academic year 07/08, (just seven years ago!) Danville had 409 students of whom 363 were in grades 1-5.
This means enrollment has fallen by 26.6% overall, but in grades 1-5 it is down by an astonishing 32.5%.
The staffing matrix for 2007/08 looked like this:
From 2013/2014, staffing is down 8.5% (73.7 FTEs declining to 67.1) . Interestingly, all of the staffing decrease is in the teachers. Numbers for admin, support, and instructional aides have hardly changed. The decrease in teachers is 14.8% (29.7 FTEs declining to 25.3).
The student/teacher ratio for that year:
363 students in grades 1-5, divided by 29.7 regular and special ed teachers gives a ratio of 12.2 students per teacher.
The change in student teach ratio from 12.2 in 2007/08 to 9.7 in 2013/14 tells us that the drop in enrollment was bigger than the reduction in teaching staff.
The reduction of overall staff by 8.5% compared to a reduction of overall enrollment by 26.6% shows in a nutshell that the district is not engaging seriously with the long term trend of declining enrollment.
The purpose of this analysis is not to single out Danville Elementary School for criticism. If anything, Danville shows more responsiveness to declining enrollment than the district as whole, which has almost the same FTE staffing number in 2013/14 as it had in 2007/08 (District staffing was 697.5 FTEs in 2007/08, and 694.9 FTEs in 2013/14, while enrollment was down 16%). The purpose is to put the numbers in the familiar context of a specific institution.
Enrollment numbers are as of October 1 every year, so we should have the Timberlane figures for the 2014/15 soon. Staffing is reported officially by the district to the NH DOE in mid-Oct, which means we should have access to those numbers no later than the third week of the month.