Tag Archives: academic standards

Trumpeting Dropout Rates

Guest Contribution by Arthur Green

One of the things we learned from Dr. Metzler at Deliberative is that dropout rates are one of the Timberlane district’s most important measures of success.  The Timberlane dropout rate of 0.85% was compared favorably against at least one of the “Leading Comparable” districts, and was used to vindicate the budgetary and academic policies of  the administration.

As usual, let’s get some context.  First as a table – here are the dropout rates from the NH DOE web site covering the period 2007/08 up to 2012/13 (which is the most recent year available on this metric):

Dropout Rate Comparison Table

Now let’s see that in a chart.  I’ve eliminated the individual schools in the “Leading Comparable” cohort, and just kept the average of that group, plus the NH state average and Timberlane:

Dropout Rate Comparison Chart

Observations:

  • We are looking backward at 2 year old results.  Since then, we have had rapid cost increases over the last 2 years – cost per pupil is up from $13,329 to (estimated) $15,498 in the current year.  This reported dropout rate does nothing to vindicate spending levels over the past 2 years
  • The trumpeted Timberlane dropout rate of 0.85% is actual up 2 years in a row, from the low of 0.28% in 2010/11.  Are we supposed to celebrate a worsening dropout rate?
  • Timberlane’s dropout rate has been consistently below the state average.  This is a good thing.  But we also know that the state average is not a meaningful comparison.  Looking at comparable districts with stronger academic results, Timberlane has been above that average, dipped below, and in the final year has crept back above.  Not bad results, but not outstanding.
  • What about the relationship to spending?
    • Bedford cost per pupil: $11,540, $1,800 less than Timberlane. Dropout rate 0.08%, far better than Timberlane
    • Salem cost per pupil: $12,383, $1,000 less than Timberlane.  Dropout rate 0.42%, half Timberlane’s number.
    • Keene cost per pupil $14,975, $1,500 more than Timberlane.  Dropout rate 0.86%, a fraction worse than Timberlane
    • Merrimack cost per pupil $13,440, about $100 more than Timberlane.  Dropout rate 1.01%, significantly worse than Timberlane
    • Conclusion:  A district can spend much less, and achieve a far better result.  A district can spend far more, and achieve a worse result.  A low dropout rate does not vindicate high spending.  We should be able to achieve a low dropout rate as other districts have done with lower spending.

2 Comments

Filed under Budget 2015-2016, Expenditures, School Board Issues, Taxes

Parents: Important Info on NH Scholars Program

Parents:  Please forward this to others. Not all this information is on the district website.
Now that high school students are currently selecting classes for 2015-2016 through a new online process, keep in mind the requirements of the NH Scholars program so your child can be eligible for this outstanding  program with little known but important scholarship benefits.
New Hampshire Scholars is a community-based program that encourages students to take a more rigorous Core Course of Study in high school. It is based on a partnership between a community’s local business leaders and its school district. New Hampshire Scholars is federally-funded through the New Hampshire Department of Education.
4 Year High School Planner
NH Scholarship College Fee Waiver and Scholarship Benefits:
includes:  Several colleges and universities are providing merit-based scholarships to students who graduate with the distinction of a New Hampshire Scholar. As of Fall 2014 the following are available:
NH Scholars Day of Student Recognition includes:
Student transportation ( paid by NH Scholars)
Governor Maggie Hassan will congratulate students
Following the ceremony schools, students and their families are invited to stay for a NH Scholars-themed baseball game with the NH Fisher Cats

Leave a comment

Filed under Sandown Issues

Responses to My Deliberative Speech

Gentle Readers,

Some very interesting comments have been posted to my last posting, “My Deliberative Speech.”  Please scroll down to it and click on the comments.  After the first 6, things get interesting.

For instance, it is news to me that there is a certified Foreign Language in Elementary School instructor already employed at Timberlane High School. We did not need to hire the superintendent’s wife.  I knew that there were other FLES instructors in NH, but right at our own high school, this is rich.  Pinocchio Academy and the Mushroom Farm strike the school board once again and hit you in the pocketbook, too.

And of course, the no big secret, that Mrs. Grosky, the budget committee chairman’s wife, was hired to combat “The Greens.”   Mr. Collins said so at a Danville Board of Selectman meeting.

As I said before, Timberlane does not look for the best people in its own backyard; it climbs up on ladders and peers into bedroom windows. And nepotism is far from the only hiring problem.

Those who care about education are going to wake up one day to realize that all these things that look like minor financial and ethical irregularities have completely corroded our ability to deliver a quality education.

 

 

16 Comments

Filed under Budget 2015-2016, Pinocchio Academy, Spanish Consultant Contract, The Mushroom Farm

New Tyranny at Timberlane: Policy Committee Under Attack

Policies fundamentally affect the way the district is run.  As I have been told many times, the primary function of the school board is to set policy.  As of this morning, the school board’s Policy Committee has been shot in the knees.  Dr. Metzler and the other co-chair of the Policy Committee have unilaterally decided that deliberations by the Policy Committee should not exceed 10 minutes on any one policy at Policy Committee meetings and that topics to be discussed will be pre-screened.  The notice came down from on high  without any previous discussion by the Policy Committee.

Hello Policy Committee Members:

Co-Chairs Peter Bealo and Dr. Metzler shall institute the following process for policy review as a means to foster more productive and efficient committee meetings.

Policy meeting packets will be distributed at least two weeks in advance of the meeting to encourage individual policy review prior to the meeting.
1.      Committee members are encouraged to submit their comments and suggestions about the policies to the co-chairs ONLY by the Monday before the meeting.  These comments and suggestions will be considered for meeting discussion.  Copying to a quorum of the committee could very well constitute a meeting, and as such, this practice is strongly discouraged.
2.      A time limit of 10 minutes for discussion shall be given to each policy under review.  This is where comments and suggestions to the co-chairs will be helpful in driving that discussion.  It will be up to the co-chairs to determine if additional time is necessary to address a policy.
It is important to note this process is not intended to prohibit a healthy discussion about the policies of the school district; just the opposite, it is to help direct the discussion and keep the meetings productive and moving along as charged by the school board as its chief function, along with providing the resources for the successful implementation of these policies.
Please find attached the December 4th Policy Committee meeting packet.  You will notice the first item on the agenda is the goals for 2014-15.  Your ideas and suggestions for goals for the current year can be emailed to Dr. Metzler and Mr. Bealo as well.

Have a good weekend,
Cathy

Recent policy changes at Timberlane no longer require a large number of contracts to go out to competitive bid.  As of a few days ago the administration can now move up to $25,000 around for different budgeted purposes without elected official knowledge or approval.  One policy change being proposed will limit public comment at school board meetings to items on the agenda and only on the agenda.  (This has the happy consequence of stopping budget committee members from making public comment at school board meetings, and parents from bringing up issues.)

Since I’ve joined the Policy Committee, the number of policies we have been able to advance for the laughable “first and second readings”  has gone from 6-10 policies a meeting to 2-6.  Is this because I am disruptive?  No, it is because I ask us to really think about what these policies mean.  Mr. Bealo said just a few days ago at the most recent school board meeting that our discussions are productive and important.

The committee is large.  It consists of eleven people only four of whom are school board members.  Our policies are a mess because they have gone through many agenda-driven revisions without any real attention to detail.  They have inconsistencies and in at least one case outright unintelligible sentences. So far as I’ve been able to observe, the Policy Committee’s primary purpose is to transfer as much authority to the superintendent as possible in the shortest time possible.

The Co-chair is asking for goals.  Here’s mine:  Disband the Policy Committee and let the superintendent write the policies to his liking.  Then the yoke of checks and balances will be lifted from our shoulders.

P.S. Policy Committee meetings are just one hour long once a month.  Not much time to devote to the Board’s most important function, is it?   Lack of deliberative time is the chief ploy the district uses to control outcomes. This is in keeping with giving the Budget Committee the district’s full budget with only two meetings remaining in their deliberative schedule (three if you count Dec. 23 which is invariably cancelled).  The second most well-used ploy is withholding information and surrendering it when it cannot be useful as is done during budget deliberations.  More on that soon.

UPDATE 11/17/14:  Listen to radio commentator Rich Girard’s take on this: Girard on Limiting Debate

 

3 Comments

Filed under School Board Behavior, School Board Functioning

Parents Take Note: Textbooks Getting Reviewed

With Donna Garner’s permission to reproduce this, I urge parents and school board members to save this information and use it. Whether or not you agree with the political slant, it is always good to know exactly what is inside texts that are educating our children. [Thanks to Rich Girard of GirardatLarge.com for the information.]

“First Time Ever Done in America: Truth in Texas Textbooks”
by Donna Garner
11.9.14

This has never been done by any group in America. Without getting paid a penny, average citizens formed Truth in Texas Textbooks (TTT); and they have completed “the largest and most extensive textbook review of social studies textbooks in the US.”

Let by Lt. Col. (retired) Roy White, these grassroots citizens took matters into their own hands; dedicated themselves to spend countless hours reading through the new, proposed social studies instructional materials (IM’s); and they have submitted in writing the factual errors, omission of facts, half-truths, and agenda bias.

Rather than allowing leftist organizations such as Texas Freedom Network (please see link at bottom of this page) to dominate the process, these patriotic citizens of Truth in Texas Textbooks (TTT) have done “their homework.”

Background: On 5.21.10, the elected members of the Texas State Board of Education adopted new Social Studies TEKS (Texas’ curriculum standards) that are the most fact-based and patriotic of any standards in the entire United States. Since that time, publishers have been developing new social studies instructional materials (e.g., textbooks) that are supposed to be based upon the 5.21.10 Social Studies TEKS. In the upcoming Nov. 18 – 21 Board meeting, the SBOE will be voting on a list of approved Social Studies curriculum materials.

Lt. Col. White chaired Truth in Texas Textbooks; and their evaluations have now been posted on a public website — http://truthintexastextbooks.com/.

These evaluations are easily accessible to the publishers, to the public, and to the SBOE members.

The TTT (Truth in Texas Textbooks) website is easy to understand, and all of their evaluations have been formatted so that they are easy to read and share (formatted in WORD).

Lt. Col. White has explained on the website how the public can sign up to testify at the upcoming Texas State Board of Education meeting (Nov. 18, 2014). Now by utilizing the valuable TTT evaluations, the public will feel completely confident to present their remarks.

Here are excerpts from Lt. Col. White’s website, and I have posted further on down the page some helpful links for easy access:

TTT is the largest effort by average citizens assisted by subject matter experts to do full reviews on social studies textbooks. TTT will begin to populate the website with reviews by other reputable individuals and groups such as TTT who wish to share their reviews with us.

The total number of books reviewed were 32 high school and/or middle school textbooks. Cumulatively TTT reviewers compiled 469 pages of factual errors, imbalanced presentation of materials, omission of information, opinions disguised as facts and additionally questions found in the teacher’s editions that are considered “agenda building” or “leading questions” to conclusions not supported by facts.
The goal is to have as many social studies textbook reviews posted in one place that will give parents, teachers and Board of Education members a single source to find these reviews to insure the publishers are held accountable for producing factual and honest social studies textbooks. This will be an ongoing process handled by volunteers.

No one is getting paid; we are not a 501c nor plan at this point to become one. We merely want to have the most factual and intelligently honest textbooks possible for our children.
This website is dedicated to two groups:

1. The children of Texas (our future!)
2.. The TTT Coalition volunteers who have expended thousands of hours on conference calls, reading training newsletters, going through “mock reviews” and finally conducting the actual reviews on the textbooks. As well as putting up with me.

Over 5 million children will use these textbooks over the next 8 years.

TTT has reached out to each publisher and asked to speak to them in order to facilitate change and in correcting the errors we found. They are to respond to the SBOE and TEA regarding our inputs sometime this week or early next week. We will put up their replies so everyone can see what changes are being agreed to and which ones aren’t.

Based upon those final edits we will rate the books as either “Good”, “Poor” or “Worse” but this will occur sometime in December most likely as we assess the number of changes and the impact that has on the quality of the textbook. The SBOE will vote “up or down” on the textbooks on or about November 21, 2014.

This has been over a year in the making. Our volunteers have put their lives on hold in making this happen and they are the real heroes in what is the largest and most extensive textbook review of social studies textbooks by “average” citizens in the US. I hope others like them will step up in other states and in Texas when more textbooks in other areas are put forth for adoption.

LINKS TO TTT’S EVALUATIONS:

Evaluations done by TTT reviewers – listed by the name of publishing company: http://truthintexastextbooks.com/texas-book-reviews/

Summary of findings – World History, Geography, and Cultures: http://truthintexastextbooks.com/about-us/

Summary of findings of factual errors, omission of facts, half-truths, and agenda bias — Economics, U. S. History, Government: http://truthintexastextbooks.com/about-us/

========
Texas State Board of Education Meetings: http://tea.texas.gov/About_TEA/Leadership/State_Board_of_Education/SBOE_Meetings/SBOE_-_State_Board_of_Education/

========

11.9.14 – “Progressive Bias Rampant in Texas Textbooks” — by Merrill Hope – Breitbart Texas

http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-Texas/2014/11/09/Progressive-Bias-Rampant-In-Texas-Textbooks/

2.3.13 – “Who and What Texas Freedom Network (TFN) Really Is” — by Donna Garner —

http://nocompromisepac.ning.com/profiles/blogs/who-and-what-texas-freedom-network-really-is-by-donna-garner

Donna Garner
Wgarner1@hot.rr.com

4 Comments

Filed under School Board Issues

Green’s Presentation Proves Overstaffing

At last night school budget committee meeting, Arthur Green gave a powerful presentation on our district’s staffing levels.  Based on his study of 9 comparable districts, most of which have better academic outcomes than Timberlane, he concludes that Timberlane can shed 76 staff — without touching Special Education — and expect better performance.  Most of our cohorts are doing better with far fewer staff and less money and there is no reason we cannot be like them.

All the information assembled in this slide show linked below was taken from official public sources such as school annual reports and filings to the NH Department of Education.  Arthur offers to share anything whatsoever that went into this presentation – his reasoning, his data and his calculations.  Let’s turn this into an open forum on his data and conclusions.

During questions after this presentation last night, Budcom Chairman Grosky said that Timberlane has different demographics from a few of the selected comparable districts.  This is may be true, and I hear this over and over in education.  In plain language, this is what it means: people with less money have stupid children. I find this reasoning an insult to every one of our children who walk into our schools wanting to be judged on their own merits. Educationists use economic background as an excuse for their own pedagogical failure. All kids are sponges waiting for that magical teacher to transform their lives with a love of learning. One of the top performing math charter schools is in an inner city ghetto where kids struggle with all too adult problems too young.

Don’t reject Mr. Green’s conclusions because a few of the comparable districts may be wealthier.  The majority of them are demographically comparable to Timberlane.  And even if they weren’t, are you willing to surrender the highest expectations for our students because our collective incomes are lagging?  Let’s look at what better districts are doing with less money and try to adopt their practices.  This will keep public education affordable and give it the boot to become more efficient.

Please look at the slides, challenge the data, and let’s have a debate!     How Much Is Enough?

When the Vimeo is posted, I will link the presentation here:  

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Budget Committee, Expenditures, School Board Issues, Taxes

School Board Argues About its Role

The school board has three functions, I’ve been told: hiring the superintendent, setting policy and approving the budget. That, I’ve learned, is where we differ. I see the board’s role as an oversight body for the SAU, curriculum, instruction and everything else.

This article from the Tri-Town Times, April 24th edition, shows just one flareup of this ongoing disagreement. Reprinted by the kind permission of the publisher and with thanks to the author. (Erratum: the article quotes a Mr. Russ Collins. In fact, Russ Collins is safe in Sandown. The school board member is Mr. Rob Collins.)

Tritown School Board Report Apr 24 2014

10 Comments

Filed under School Board Behavior, School Board Issues

The Battle at School Deliberative: Feb 6

Gentle Readers:

Taxpayers, parents and school administrators are going head to head in a pitched battle at school deliberative session on Feb. 6th.  In the words of Shakespeare’s good King Henry V rousing his soldiers against seemingly hopeless odds:

And gentlemen in Timberlane now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Deliberative day.
 
 But guess what?  Our odds are not hopeless.  We can get this budget cut with a compelling argument and some favorable numbers.  I will deliver the argument which I am working hard to make short and hard hitting.  [The Moderator has now given me permission to use the projector.]  You must deliver the numbers. Please!

Tell all you see that this is not an attack on education.  This is saving the school district from itself.  When institutions grow beyond the ability of people to pay for them, one of two things happen: the institution collapses or the people are impoverished.  Families must be able to afford homes in our towns. They must have enough private resources to offer their own children advantages that can’t be replaced by school – travel, private lessons, cultivation of hobbies, etc.

When it comes down to the most selfish motivations, we all have a personal stake in education for our own personal safety.  Young people with bright futures do not become thugs.  Our property values also increase with a desirable school district.  Right now we have taxes so high we fear our houses will not be marketable, and a school district that continues to underperform despite significantly more money than a respected neighboring school (Pinkerton). Higher budgets hurt families and all property owners without helping the school district come to grips with its fundamental problem:  a long history of poor management.  There is new management now, and new promise, but  ever increasing budgets in the face of plummeting enrollment does nothing but enable the old practices.

Tell your friends to visit Timberlane2015.wordpress.com for more facts about the 2014-2015 Timberlane budget and why it is imperative to cut it this year at this meeting.  See you in battle.

Leave a comment

Filed under Budget 2014-2015, DELIBERATIVE 2014, Sandown Issues

Learnings for Education from International Study: small classes not the key to excellence

PISA is a study of reading proficiency of 15- year -olds around the world.  The man behind the multi-year extensive study gives his insights into what makes a high achieving national educational system.  His insights are sometimes so broad as to be unactionable, but many times his observations are profound and run against much of what we in our struggling system take as self-evident truths; for example, systems that spend the most money are not those with the best results, and small class sizes do not deliver optimal results.

This is a riveting talk and just a 20 minute investment.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sandown Issues

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under School Board Issues