Staffing Case Study

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
1 54 3 18.0 20
2 49 3 16.3 20
3 26 2 13.0 23
4 60 3 20.0 26
5 56 3 18.7 26
Total 245 14 17.5

 

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
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.

Danville Staffing Table 2013-14

Student/Teacher Ratio

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:

Danville Staffing Table 2007-08

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.

Conclusion

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.

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5 Comments

Filed under Sandown Issues

5 responses to “Staffing Case Study

  1. Mark Richards

    “Interestingly, all of the staffing decrease is in the teachers.. numbers for admin, support, and instructional aides have hardly changed.”

    A universal theme when cashflow through the political entity known as a school board is threatened, the only solution being to cut off the flow. Of course then we will hear the squealing, “you’re hurting the children”. These boards essentially hold children hostage, and use them as political pawns in a money and power game. For this, there should be a crime.

    The brief analysis does help to remove some of the obscurantist cloak which the Timberlane board appears adept at applying. Surely they will be unhappy in the revelations for these do not support they usual trend: wielding political power with public cash.

    Trends may be understood from historical analysis of enrollment data, but there are other demographics to examine like housing trends and local economics. It would be instructive to know if the board, already proven to be deeply incompetent and corrupt, has hidden the statistical truth or simply didn’t bother to look.

  2. Rob Collins

    Student/Teacher ratios (STR) are ranges that vary from year to year as a result of School Board policy. As the student enrollment adjusts so does the employment of teachers. Increasing OR decreasing the number of teachers based solely on whole school enrollment is not practical. It’s the enrollment at each grade level within each individual school that is important. The changes in teacher FTE are dampened due to the class size requirements defined in School Board policy at each grade level. Any given year the STR can swing a great deal. Looking at a single year, in a small school within a large school district and using it as an example of a low STR is not logical.

    Here’s why.

    Let’s look again at Danville Elementary. Given the provided enrollment at each grade level, and following Board policy, the STR can be as low as 8.4 and as high as 12.7. The total population of students can swing as low as 212 and as high as 322 and require the same and current number of teachers. Danville is toward the low end of that potential population range and therefore at the low end of the STR range. Doing some quick math you would realize other schools have to be above the TRSD average…because it’s an average.

    If you have an issue with this then you have an issue with Board Policy IIB. I will go on the record that I am completely against adjusting the maximum class size numbers from year to year in order to accommodate each individual school’s needs. These numbers have been in place as long as I’ve been on the Board and I stand by them. Increasing them one year from 26 to 28 so we can remove the need for a classroom teacher means the next year we might continue that process to 30 or more until there really isn’t a meaningful maximum at all. The education of our children would suffer.

    At Danville Elementary seven positions that the Greens referenced are funded with grants, not property tax. There is also an ASD room at Danville Elementary. Having these resources increases our overhead in FTE and lowers your calculations for STR, but also saves the district quite a bit of money while providing a much improved learning experience for our students.

    STR is a bystander, an indirect data point that should not be used as a defining measure for anything for the reasons provided above. Danville’s third grade class of 26 is an excellent example as to why that is true. This year that single class significantly skews the number down and next year that class will significantly skew the number up (Board policy will dictate that they only require one classroom in fourth grade vs two in third grade). STR really has little value in assessing how our resources are being used because it doesn’t tell the whole story.

    Incomplete and skewed analysis of reality continues to be a recurring theme with the Greens. I have every reason to believe that Danville Elementary was specifically targeted by the Greens in an attempt to demonstrate why STR is an important value to consider. It’s not.

    • Arthur Green

      Thanks to Mr. Collins for his detailed and thoughtful comments.

      I am gratified that despite all my incomplete and skewed analysis of reality, Mr. Collins has not identified a single error of fact or interpretation.

      Mr. Collins appears to be interpreting this post as a recommendation to adjust staffing at Danville Elementary based on student teacher ratio. That is not correct. I make no recommendations in this post. I am simply using a compact example of how the staffing and enrollment data are related. We will be discussing this further at the level of the overall district staffing and enrollment.

      Mr. Collins also appears stung at Danville Elementary being “targeted” in this analysis. I thought he would be proud to have his accomplishments highlighted to the residents and taxpayers who are paying for a staff of 67 to operate a school with 300 students.

  3. Pingback: More on Bloated Staffing | timberlaneandsandown

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