Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What Do They Know That We Do Not?

Life has interfered to a considerable degree with blogging of late. Even so, I cannot let this one pass without comment, if for no other reason than to twist the tails of those myriad souls here in the Classic City who staunchly defend the educational status quo (or rather constantly carp about needing to fund more of the same).

As I have commented ad nauseam, year after year the Clarke County School District spends top dollar in terms of per pupil spending. For FY 2008, the figure was $11,180.05, which placed the CCSD in the 95th percentile of all school systems in the state.

Right across the county line, however, the Oconee County School District made do with a comparatively paltry $8542.34 per pupil, a mere 76.41% of what was spent in Clarke County.

The problem is that lower expenditure Oconee County kicks higher expenditure Clarke County’s butt eight ways from Sunday with regard to graduation test scores, graduation rates, CRCT scores, AYP scores, etc. This pattern has remained consistent for a long, long time.

And here is the kicker: while last minute teacher furloughs have played Hell with the CCSD’s pre-planning schedule, over in Watkinsville they are managing to make ends meet without any teacher furloughs (see here and here).

So once again, what do they know that we do not?

Sphere: Related Content


Anonymous said...

Where in your analysis do you factor in the fact that 73% of Clarke students qualify for free lunch? You are comparing one school that 73% of the students are essentially at poverty level, with one of the more affluent communities in Georgia. I guarantee you that if you put a kid in Clarke County schools that has two affluent parents with good jobs, lots of parental involvement, and high expectations, that child will succeed. I would further bet that if you put a kid in Oconee County schools that is raised in poverty with little parental involvement and low expectations, that child will not do as well.

james said...

I fully recognize that socioeconomic factors differ between the two counties; the cultural makeup in Oconee County is far more conducive to academic achievement among K-12 students than is that in Clarke County - and therein lies the rub.

On the other hand, though, I've grown quite weary of poverty being trotted out as the ready-made excuse for the CCSD's myriad failings. When compared to other school systems of similar size, similar demographics, similar location, etc., the CCSD invariably spends far more and gets far less in return. I've documented the funding versus results discrepancies for a long time now.

Unfortunately, the only solution that ever gets proposed is to spend more money - even through that approach has failed for years, and done so in dramatic fashion.

That continues to be my point with these posts. Until the cultural aspects of Clarke County's educational problems are dealt with, throwing more money into the system will achieve nothing.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see some of those comparable cities you are talking about.

Anonymous said...

The only way poverty could affect learning would be if the schools didn't have the money to hire teachers, etc.; they obviously have all the money they need. This old crutch about the economically disadvantaged being "poor students" is a bunch of self-serving bs; it's also a self-fulfilling prophecy. Most, if not all, of our most successful men and women today, were reared in school systems that did indeed have limited resources. Being poor is no excuse for bad behavior or for not taking advantage of the many resources the schools offer.

Anonymous said...

Now that you have addressed poverty, feel free to address parental involvement and higher expectations factors.

james said...

You are correct in that parental involvement and and higher expectation are factors in this equation. The problem is that we have no evidence whatsoever that continually ratcheting up the spending does anything to increase either.

You can use the links in the post's text to look up all manner of information for recent years (expenditures, demographics, test scores, graduation rates, etc.). Nothing personal, but I've done it for years and have grown weary of doing others homework for them.

Besides which, whenever I spell out chapter and verse of why the more spending argument fails, the response is always the smae tired laments about poverty, or how the test scores really don't mean anything, or the tests are flawed, or (better yet) its all Sonny's fault.

Even after such arguments are countered with facts and logic that compare the CCSD with other districts around the state, the mindset remains that only more money will solve the problem.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a problem with you saying that you think that increasing funding for education will not help. I just have a problem when you imply that Oconee County holds the solution when that school district has probably the least amount in common with Clarke County as any other county in the state. Macon, Augusta, or Columbus would make much better comparisons.
And unless you post anonymously in addition to James, I didn't say anything about you looking up any stats for me, so I don't give two shits about you growing weary.

Anonymous said...

Wait, wait! So now it's the parents fault for not being supportive. So ... the schools will step-up, then, and spend more MONEY to address this problem. Where does it end? Spend more, more, more, and get less, less, less. Thank God ACC has plenty of excuse makers!

james said...

Sorry if my frustration leaked through a bit. The problem is that, for years, a couple of others and I have systematically debunked the litany of excuses offered for the consistently abysmal performance of the Clarke County School District. There is a strong contingent locally for whom any such arguments are absolutely anathema, and they attack whoever disagrees with them by, among other things, disputing the facts that they can easily look up for themselves – but pointedly do not because that research would undercut their arguments. I apologize for (unintentionally) lumping you in with that group – but, gees, don’t be so touchy. :)

My point remains that, sooner or later, the powers that be here in Clarke County need to reevaluate their approach because what they’ve been doing for years has not worked. Though I do not claim that Oconee County has all of the answers, the fact is that an excellent case can be made that The OC has a much better handle on how to run a public education system than does Clarke County.

Do demographics play a part in that (and by “demographics” I mean culture, not skin color)? Sure they do – but there has to be more to it than that because Clarke County compares poorly with other school systems of similar size and similar student populations. Insofar as Macon, Columbus, Augusta, or anywhere else is concerned, that is why I provided the links in the original post. Folks can look up all manner of information and draw their own conclusions.

Finally, on this blog, or any other for that matter, I post nothing anonymously or through the use of pseudonyms.

Anonymous said...

A couple of points: What many liberals don't get -- and I do because I have been a teacher in the CCSD, as well as two others -- is that it's not just black kids that do poorly in the schools. There are many, many white kids who perform poorly. And no, I am not making a counter-argument to what I was saying before. I don't know what the solution is ... but I am absolutely certain that this feel-good excuse making sky's-the-limit-for-funding thingy is NOT working. The second thing I'd point to is the growth of school bureaucracies and some federal rule changes that have left virtually all schools with out-of-control growth in special education and other pet administrative spheres. All-in-all, the BOE members and many of the administrators are out-of-touch with the real work that goes on in the schools. Incidentally, I have heard from several other teachers about how good the three day forlough went -- particularly for those who did this during pre-planning. These days (preplanning) are normally crammed with all sorts of worthless seminars and faculty meetings and many things that actually consume this valueble planning time; which in fact wastes teachers time. This year, though, nothing official could be scheduled, and the teachers were left with a full three days in which to get ready for school! Now isn't that weird how spending less can actually accomplish more (real) work!!