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State's school funding process is failing
Original post made
by Stacey, Amberwood/Wood Meadows,
on Nov 20, 2009
Some mandates have broad support from districts, teachers and parents. And district administrators appreciate how earmarking funds rather than providing them as block grants keeps them from being entirely consumed by teacher salary increases in union contract talks.
Yet the Legislature's tendency to promulgate one-size-fits-all policies puts local administrators in an intolerable position.
Moreover, the system holds local schools hostage to the state's roller-coaster fiscal cycle and chuckleheaded budget policies in Sacramento.
Consider what happened after Schwarzenegger slashed the car tax in 2003. That money (this year it would have been more than $6 billion) had been going to cities and counties. In the aftermath of the cutback, the state made the localities whole by handing over to them property taxes that had been going to school districts, then covered the districts' loss from the general fund -- which made it look like the state was giving the schools more money.
""For years we've said this is a problem, and for years the governor and the Legislature haven't done anything about it,"
Passing a parcel tax is not going to address these problems. They've been going on for years and will continue if no attention is given to it. All I see a parcel tax doing is helping legislators to kick the ball further down the field.
Posted by To Stacey
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2009 at 6:13 am
Talk to ANY teacher about the difference between teaching a class of 30 students vs teaching a class of 20 students, and I am willing to bet money that they will all say that with fewer students they can differentiate teaching (that is, more effectively target students who are falling behind and provide more challenging work to students who are ahead), provide more one-on-one help, and get to know each student better.
Just because there is no study about the effects of a class size of 25:1 vs 20:1 doesn't mean there is no statistically significant difference between the two.
This following excerpt is taken from the ed.gov website:
Myth: The effects of class-size reduction can only be seen at the kindergarten level and the impact is short-lived.
Reality: The benefits of class-size reduction are seen in kindergarten and through grades 1-3, and the effects are long lasting.
Analyses of the STAR results confirm statistically significant differences in achievement among students who attended small classes for one, two, three or four years. Although one year in smaller classes resulted in increased achievement, the benefits of smaller class sizes in the early grades increased as children spent more years in the smaller classes. In addition to initial benefits, there are long lasting effects on student achievement that result from reducing class sizes. Recent findings from Tennessee's Project STAR study demonstrate that students attending small classes in grades K-3 outperformed their counterparts on standardized tests in grades 4, 6 and 8; continued to outperform classmates at the high school level; took more advanced classes; were less likely to be retained a grade or drop out of high school; and were more likely to prepare for college by taking college entrance exams.
However, researchers have found that in order to optimize the carryover benefits of small classes in the early grades through the later grades, it is necessary for students to spend at least three years in small classes. The advantages of attending a small class for the four years encompassing kindergarten through third grade are equivalent to receiving an additional six months to fourteen months of schooling.
Myth: The explanations and conclusions of the STAR findings are flawed.
Reality: A variety of studies confirm the findings of the STAR study.
Since the introduction of the Tennessee class-size reduction effort in 1985, the original STAR database has been analyzed time and again by numerous and diverse researchers through a variety of approaches, methodological perspectives, and statistical applications. Despite these differences, the findings have been consistent--students who participated in smaller classes in grades K-3 performed at higher levels than their peers in larger classes, and these effects continued through the end of high school.
Myth: There are hundreds of separate studies of the effect of "pupil-teacher ratios" on student achievement; only a handful suggests a positive relationship between reductions in class size and improvements in student performance.
Reality: There is an important distinction between class size, which is the number of students for whom a teacher is primarily responsible, and pupil-teacher ratio, which is the number of students per adults in a school (administrators, counselors, etc.). As a result, many studies have not accurately addressed the effect of reduced class sizes.
Data on pupil-teacher ratios reflect the total number of teachers and students at any time, not how they are used or impact the classroom. As a result, pupil-teacher ratios are often skewed by specialized instruction (as in special education), teachers in supervisory and administrative roles, librarians, music, art, and physical education teachers. As a result, these analyses often attempt to draw relationships in situations that do not reflect actual class size.
To be useful, studies of the effect of class-size reduction on student achievement require the surveying of individual districts about their assignment practices. Both Tennessee's STAR and Wisconsin's SAGE have surveyed individual districts and grades within those districts for class size differences and found significant differences in achievement for students in smaller classes.
Myth: While existing studies do show that variations in class size can influence performance, no one has been able to identify the overall circumstances that lead to the positive effects; it is premature to develop federal policy in the absence of this information.
Reality: The Project STAR study was scientifically designed so that the only variable altered was the size of the classes, and was hence able to conclude that smaller class sizes alone do have a positive impact on student achievement. However, to maximize these benefits, effective teaching strategies are needed. Effective teacher research suggests that certain teaching strategies and skills, particularly those that actively engage students in the learning process, lead to improved student learning when combined with smaller classes.
Among these characteristics of good teaching is the ability to communicate challenging content; involving students in hands-on experiences; providing clear and immediate feedback; and supporting family involvement. As evidenced in the research base and as seen in existing class-size reduction programs in many states, smaller classes afford more opportunity to implement all of these activities. In addition, the Federal Class-Size Reduction Program allows local school districts to reserve up to 15% of their funds to support professional development that can help all teachers better meet the needs of every student.
Myth 6: The implementation of California's class-size reduction initiative demonstrates the negative impact of such efforts.
Reality: Findings from year one of an ongoing evaluation of the California initiative show positive achievement gains, despite challenges with respect to "overnight" implementation, teacher quality and supply, space constraints, and funds for new classrooms.
In July 1996, California passed legislation to reduce class size in the early grades. The state rapidly invested $1 billion (followed by $1.5 billion annually) in incentives to improve student achievement by reducing its kindergarten through third grade class sizes to 20 students. As a result, despite problems of limited space and too few qualified teachers, many schools reduced class size at least at one grade level in the six weeks between the passage of the legislation and the start of the school year. By the program's second year, almost all first and second grade class sizes had been reduced, along with two-thirds of third grades and kindergartens.
After just one year in smaller classes, third grade students showed a small, but statistically significant, gain in academic achievement, and this benefit was seen in all students across the board. Teachers reported being able to spend more time working individually with students. Furthermore, parents of students in smaller classes became more involved in their children's education as they were able to have more contact with teachers. Parents also expressed greater satisfaction with their children's education.