published Thursday, July 26th, 2012

The school board matters

The Hamilton County school district spends a staggering $9,398 per student, according to the Tennessee Department of Education. The district will devour more than $350 million in local, state and federal taxpayers' money this year. Unfortunately, all of those dollars do not always produce well-educated kids.

In 2011, at the elementary school level, black, Hispanic, economically disadvantaged and disabled student populations all failed to meet minimum federal benchmarks in reading in Hamilton County public schools, according to TDOE stats. By high school, only 31 percent of black students scored "proficient" or above in reading. Just 45 percent of black high schoolers were considered "proficient" or better in math. As a whole, Hamilton County students scored below the state average in language skills.

The Hamilton County School Board has a responsibility to improve these disheartening numbers.

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Really, you're staggered by less than 10,000 a year per student? The state requires 180 days at 6 and a half hours a day. That means 1080 hours of schooling a year. Just less than 9 dollars an hour.

Of course you really have to control for spending on disabled students and other spending distortions to really get an accurate picture.

But hey, maybe we can stop pouring money into the standardized testing industry.

July 26, 2012 at 1:59 a.m.
aae1049 said...

HappywithGovPaidBulbs...all services in a school are provided in mass. $9 per hour, per 20 to 30 students in a classroom, or at a cafeteria table equate to extraordinarily well financed, ie one math teacher, 20 children, $9/hour. Do the math.

The problem is HCDE is so poorly managed. The same amount of funding provided to a Charter school, works like a charm. As the parent of a child challenged with Autistic spectrum issues, IDEA funding per child is provided from State funds, in addition to the per child state allocation. HCDE is still not meeting the bar on special education. Since HCDE cannot meet the educational needs of typical children, imagine how dysfunctional they are in the delivery of IDEA accommodations that allow children who do not function within a narrow band of normal to attend public schools. I guess we could return to the Forest Gump days, and not let them attend school.

Further, there is huge disparity in urban school public education. A problem that is so huge, where do you begin?

July 26, 2012 at 7:34 a.m.
Leaf said...

This amount needs to be put into perspective. What is the national average? The state average? How much does a private school cost, and can you somehow value the education given by each?

I think we all know that the value of the education area children receive varies widely depending on the school they attend, and it's pretty easy to prove that in total our area public schools are near the bottom of the pile. But if we are spending substantially less than other districts, maybe we are getting a good bargain?

I'd like to see the money broken down by, say, how much goes to school infrastructure, how much goes to teacher salaries, and how much goes to support the comically bloated administration.

July 26, 2012 at 8:28 a.m.
Keevah said...

"At what cost," is a much bigger question than mere application of funds. Problems aren't solved by throwing more money at them, I agree, but you have to empower and encourage the educators who see students as complex, more than data points and that is NOT happening with this new system of "High Stakes Testing," and teacher evaluations not based on the teacher's own classes and efforts.

July 26, 2012 at 9:44 a.m.
aae1049 said...

By the way, HappywithGovPaidBulbs, I mean that in an endearing way, I have friends that lean left, right, and all over the map. Just kidding.

July 26, 2012 at noon

aae1049, As you might have noticed, I made no comment on the effectiveness. Just the reaction to the cost, as if it were somehow staggering. But it's not.

And no, the teacher doesn't get 100% of the money spent on those children. Some of it goes to the environmental services (overheated class rooms are a bad idea), grounds maintenance, food and more. Just like spending on special needs services though, they distort the picture of actual education spending? So why don't we break it down by actual spending on actual programs?

Or would that be too much work? Would it reveal that too much money is being wasted on standardized testing and other corporate giveaways rather than being invested in the students?

As for charter schools, actually, no, it turns out they don't do so well. They tend to cherry-pick their students, which gives them an artificial boost in performance, but when you control for populations, you find...they aren't doing so well. And they even distort public schools by concentrating the more expensively served students.

But you know what you might try? A little more decorum. Or are you just another sock-puppet for the noise crowd?

July 26, 2012 at 1:37 p.m.
jaspergal said...

For comparison, tuition rates at Chattanooga Christian School are ~$9000 for High School students, and significantly less for Middle School and Elementary. And the academic results from CCS are much better than the statistics stated here. Based solely on that data, it doesn't seem to me that the poor results for Hamilton County Schools are due to underfunding.

July 26, 2012 at 2:13 p.m.
aae1049 said...

HappywithFreeGovBulbs, seems you may be taking yourself a little to serious. It is A-OK to have fun and convey a point. Lighten up.

Your model of cost was flawed. Stating $9 a child does not capture the economy of scale with many children at $9 per child. Ya kind of missed the mark on that one. Well funded, includes the facilities, capital and operational costs.

Finally, you are just wrong. Charter schools allow options, and that is what parents want, options, from Magnet to Charter,....The current public school model is a one-size fits all, and it is failing miserably.

Finally, the delivery of special education is not concentrated at all as you have incorrectly stated. Disabilities occur in a spectrum of need and various levels of service. I kind of know that area, since I live it.

July 26, 2012 at 4:07 p.m.

jaspergal, I don't know of anybody who is taking a statement of putting more money into it. More money into the appropriate things sure, but not more money at all.

I am, however, disagreeing with the shock expressed at the given figure. Don't confuse that for advocating spending more.

aae1049, as I thought you decide to try projecting a fault onto another rather than refraining from juvenile braying. But really, just try for some decorum. You don't need to pattern yourself after the right-wing trolls on this site, you can be better than them.

Anyway, I made no model of cost, if you got that impression you were mistaken, I was merely pointing out that getting upset over the raw average given above is flawed. I'm sorry you missed that intention.

And who said parents didn't want options? That's not the problem. The problem is with the absolute adherence to charter schools as if they were magically increasing performance on a shoe-string. They're not.

And no, the current public school model is not one-size fits all, there's actually quite a lot of diversity going on across the country. You think there's uniformity? No way. There's a reason why some schools do very poorly while other schools do great. Because things are being done differently in different places. There is no national school system, no national plan, and most of the control? In the hands of the states and counties. Even within a school there are many different tracks and approaches. So no, I don't agree with that contention either.

And I stated nothing about the delivery of special education, I do not know where you got that idea. I was explaining that those costs are included with the overall budget that lead to the average where they serve as a severer distortion than you think. Certainly there are some that aren't as expensive as others, but there's still a lot more money being spent in ways that don't actually serve each individual student.

Maybe instead of trying to be cute, you ought to spend some time figuring out what I'm saying?

I'm asking for an actual accounting of spending that controls for the various distortions. Even just setting out how much goes to schooling and how much goes to "athletics" would be useful, but that's hardly going to be done.

July 26, 2012 at 5:20 p.m.
aae1049 said...

HappywithFreeGovBlubs, You seem arrogant in your attitude. Finally, I am right-wing conservative, not acting about it, and proud of it.

July 26, 2012 at 6:49 p.m.

And you seem like another one of the right-wing trolls here, who can't bother to be polite, who project their own faults onto somebody else, and who can't even stick to a discussion without having to stomp off from time to time. Not without an attempt at a parting shot though.

Why don't you try not being like them?

What do you think of the idea of actually accounting for the spending, not just hyperventilating over a misleading statistic of no particular meaning?

July 26, 2012 at 7:20 p.m.
aae1049 said...

I checked, this is not the "yes Harry Austin," side of paper, aren't you somewhat displaced, :-) just kidding.

Ok,I will try to improve my methods of speaking to liberals. Watching a training video as we speak. Here we go,

July 26, 2012 at 11:32 p.m.

So...I guess you're avoiding the subject at hand?

Hmm, I wonder why?

Probably because you're just another sock-puppet of the right-wing trolls here and not actually capable of discussion.

Or do you think it's a bad idea to actually account for spending specifically?

But yes, this is the side of the paper lacking integrity or honesty, that when criticized for duplicity, they respond with a childish rant. The only positive statements are their own fawning admiration for each other.

So fess up, tell me who's paying you to post here? Is it the Romney campaign, or are you somehow a false-flag operation from somebody else?

Oh, I bit it's Chik-fil-A, they've got to cover up their PR problems from losing the Muppets.

July 26, 2012 at 11:50 p.m.
Leaf said...

Yikes! Misdirection and acrimony! I'm not an expert on local schools, but here's my impression. They suck. Hey, why don't we try something different? Fire the leadership and get some new blood. Or is the good-old-boy network completely unassailable in Chattanooga?

July 27, 2012 at 10:02 a.m.

The school board does matter and $9300 per student is a huge amount. Leaf is right, local schools suck. Even the best of them is the bottom of the national barrel. They have lowered the grading standards and shifted their focus from covering the totality of the subjects to just teaching what's going to be on the test. You might not believe this, but I know it to be a fact, some schools actually give the kids practice tests that they take before the real test. They go over the test in class and make sure everyone has 100% of the answers correct. This might not sound onerous, and it wouldn't be if the practice test wasn't a photocopy of the real test. In my day, being caught with a copy of the test before it is given was cheating. You can't blame teachers and curriculum for all of the problems. A major portion of the problems is related to parental involvement. Mommies and daddies just sending their brats to school so they are out of their hair while they sit around and collect welfare and unemployment. A shocking number of them could care less how well their children do in school. The poor student performance of the inner city schools is directly related to the "no responsibility" entitlement culture created by politicians. Goverment is destroying education. The steering of education standards needs to be moved back to local government away from the federal money pit.

July 27, 2012 at 10:39 a.m.

Leaf, start fresh? Accept that locals are responsible for the problems? Not hardly. It's much easier to get upset at the "staggering" amount of money spent, while implicitly assuming that there must be somebody else at fault, some dogmatic organization that's hamstringing our school administration from actually waving a magic wand and fixing things.

Or the unions, keeping incompetent teachers employed! When in reality it's the school administration trying to find those teachers who do make waves...which is usually by trying to fix things.

FPSE, why is 9300 dollars a huge amount to spend on 180 days of schooling a year? And why aren't we looking at the actual accounting of the spending, but just taking the singular number?

That said, I agree that the tests are flawed. But I'd like a little more examination of the spending.

But I think you'd find things very different if you actually met some of those parents you blindly disparage.

Or if you realized that the Federal government isn't running the schools, and that the responsibility lies entirely locally. I know, the Federal Department of Education is hated, but that's not based on real actions, just a presumption that it must be somebody else's fault, not one here at home, but some faceless bureaucracy elsewhere.

The only way it's the fault of the Department of Education is because it's a toothless tiger that can't actually do anything. Which is like saying a plumber can't fix a leak when you don't let him in your house.

July 27, 2012 at 12:34 p.m.

The tests aren't flawed. I didn't say they were. I said the current practice of cherry picking teaching curriculum based upon what is going to be on the test instead of teaching the broad range of the subject and making sure the subjects covered by the test are in it is the real problem. In other words, the teachers spend the whole year teaching to the test and exclude most everything else. I wouldn't think any differently of the parents I "blindly disparage" if they meet the criteria I set. The federal government isn't running the schools? Why all the concern for no child left behind then? Why teach to the tests?

The department of education is hated not because of some presumption that it is someone else's fault, but instead because they are wasting billions of dollars a year on programs that fail, every single year. The U.S. Dept of education is of no benefit to students. It is just a waste of time and money like most alphabet govt constructs.

$9,300 is a huge amount to spend because the results don't even come close to justifying it.

July 27, 2012 at 3:07 p.m.

That's pretty much saying the tests are flawed. You say teachers focus on teaching to the test, that means they lose their purpose of an accurate and impartial assessment. Would you have preferred I said something like "I agree with that flaw in the test" or some other such parsing? Or are you just trying to avoid admitting that the process is bad since that'd be agreeing with me?

Just as you are trying to avoid admitting your generalized statement is painting in broad strokes by giving a whole group certain characteristics which you disparage? The problem is you don't know that they do, you just think they do because it's a convenient way to blame them instead of addressing a real problem.

And no, the schools are not run by the federal government. See who is setting the curriculum, see who sets the policies. See who runs the schools. NCLB was about giving an excuse for even less federal oversight in the name of doing something which was actually a very flawed strategy that focused on what Republicans claimed was impartial assessment along with a rewards-based incentive system. In other words a prescription for corruption as it became more important to meet benchmarks rather than serve the students. Poor Ted Kennedy, never should have listened on it. Oh well.

The US Department of Education is indeed something of a waste, if you want it to be in charge of schools, because it isn't empowered to do anything. However it makes a handy scapegoat, as instead of actually fixing a school, local school boards and various politicians can just rant against it. So don't expect to see it go away. It's actually useful to excuse doing nothing.

And like I said, I still want a true accounting, not a blind statement of an average. How much are they spending on what is more important a question to ask than getting upset over a figure that only seems huge when you look at it in a way that you are intentionally seeking to get yourself upset about.

July 27, 2012 at 5:40 p.m.
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