Town Square

Post a New Topic

State's school funding process is failing

Original post made by Stacey, Amberwood/Wood Meadows, on Nov 20, 2009

Web Link

"
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.

Comments (48)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Passing a parcel tax shields our local schools from mistakes made at the state and federal level. All of the high quality districts in the Bay Area have passed parcel taxes and they are seeing the benefits.

Not passing a parcel tax in our little town will do nothing toward the goal of changing policies at the state level. It won't prod state legislators to make any changes. It will only further hurt our schools that are suffering from the worst class sizes in the Tri-Valley area and other cut backs already.

We need to focus on getting a parcel tax on the ballot that best serves the community's needs, restores some of the programs that have been cut, and shields us from further cuts.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2009 at 12:54 pm

"Passing a parcel tax shields our local schools from mistakes made at the state and federal level. All of the high quality districts in the Bay Area have passed parcel taxes and they are seeing the benefits."

Really??? Then what are you going to do once that money is all allocated and there still is not enough to meet the automatic raise schedule?

"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."

I am not sure who wrote this, but it is very well stated. A parcel tax is nothing but a Band Aid with half of the adhesive already worn off.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 20, 2009 at 1:11 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Passing a parcel tax does not shield our district from local issues. Not passing a parcel tax furthers the goal of changing local policies. That's one reason for why many over the summer chose to donate directly to the school instead of to the district through the PPIE fundraiser.

To be a high quality district doesn't just require high quality student outcomes, but also high quality management. There can't be the first without the second.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 20, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Things the district can start doing right now: improve transparency, give more than a rubberstamping role to budget advisory committees (who is even on it this year?), educate the community as to what is going on with Measure B and the bond oversight committee (the latest report available online is for only one of the bond series and is dated june 2008, who is on the oversight committee?, how much longer are taxpayers on the hook for these bonds, etc.), set policy for funding the unfunded liabilities, set policy for car allowances and mileage, etc.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2009 at 2:17 pm

To resident,

"A parcel tax is nothing but a Band Aid with half of the adhesive already worn off."

Maybe you're talking about a different community, but WE DON'T HAVE A PARCEL TAX. There is nothing to wear off. We don't have one. ALL of the other high quality school districts in the Bay Area have passed parcel taxes. They have that advantage. We don't have it, and our schools have already begun to suffer as a result.

" is all allocated and there still is not enough to meet the automatic raise schedule"

Why are you making that assumption. Suppose the parcel tax is allocated and there is enough money to make the schedule? In any case there will probably be cuts even with a parcel tax, just to a lesser extent than there would be without it. The situation is the same in all other good school districts like San Ramon and Palo Alto. The parcel tax isn't a perfect solution, but it helps.

"helping legislators to kick the ball further down the field..."

A local parcel tax here in our little town has nothing to do with state legislators.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2009 at 2:20 pm

To Stacey,

"To be a high quality district doesn't just require high quality student outcomes, but also high quality management. There can't be the first without the second."

I don't follow you at all here. We do have high quality student outcomes here. That is not in dispute, as far as I know. Since we have the first, by your reasoning, we must have the second, or did I read you wrong?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2009 at 2:22 pm

To Stacey,

"improve transparency, give more than a rubberstamping role to budget advisory committees (who is even on it this year?), educate the community as to what is going on with Measure B and the bond oversight committee (the latest report available online is for only one of the bond series and is dated june 2008, who is on the oversight committee?, how much longer are taxpayers on the hook for these bonds, etc.), set policy for funding the unfunded liabilities, set policy for car allowances and mileage, etc."

Do you think any of those things have higher priority than the various student oriented programs that have already been cut, or will be cut if we don't pass a parcel tax? I don't think many parents would agree, and I don't think many of us non-parents agree either.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 20, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Reader,

High student outcomes do not last long if quality management is not in place. Parcel taxes historically are passed by communities to pay for extras that aren't funded by the State. That's why those high quality districts you write about already have them. Those taxes were not passed during economic downturns to address funding shortfalls from the State. Remember, in the case of Palo Alto, they are a basic aid district so aren't even as exposed to the annual State budget crises as Pleasanton is. No one could predict this economic downturn, yet the ups and downs of school funding in California is well known. If our City is able to plan for these storms, our District can too.

Those things I wrote don't need to be given a higher priority. They are just some of the ideas for things that need to get in the works in order for confidence in the district from the community to be restored. The district needs to create a plan for achieving sustainability. Otherwise those higher priority programs are just going to be further cut down the road as no parcel tax can make up for poor fiscal planning.

Here's another article for you, different topic:

Web Link

"the controversy that has so far been waged mostly in academic circles – whether class-size reduction makes a difference in boosting student performance. Dominic Brewer, a USC professor, said there is no compelling research showing that class-size reduction results in improved academic performance in California. What research does exist has typically been done in other states and in classrooms with even smaller enrollments than in California.

"A class of 20 may be terrible for an ineffective teacher," he said. "And a great teacher can do great things with 30."

Some education leaders who have been lukewarm about the program are now making the case that the funds could be better used.

"I don't think 20-to-1 is sacred," said L.A. schools Superintendent Ramon Cortines. More important, he said, "is the kind of quality time you spend with your students, and how you divide your time in the classroom." To tackle high drop-out rates, he believes the real need is for smaller classes in middle and high schools, where class sizes in his district have soared to 40 and higher in some schools.

San Jose's Iglesias said that even if the state's economy rebounds, he's not sure he'd put money back into the class-size-reduction program. "I'd put it into longer school days or Saturday classes rather than this," he said. "


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 20, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

"High student outcomes do not last long if quality management is not in place." What I meant to add after this line was something about resting on laurels.

I was at a company where I witnessed the new management ride the inertia of the company's reputation for quality that was built up by a previous management. I quit before it went too far down the hill but I did see competitors start to pass them by because of this.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2009 at 6:15 pm

"They are just some of the ideas for things that need to get in the works in order for confidence in the district from the community to be restored. "

There are plenty of residents here who have confidence in the district. What are the problems with PUSD that aren't shared with, say San Ramon, or Piedmont?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Amador parent
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Nov 20, 2009 at 8:12 pm

Piedmont is an interesting example of how parcel taxes can get out of control. In 1985 a small parcel tax was passed with the claim that it would elevate the need for fund raising efforts each year. But once the fish was hooked the district has managed to leverage six increases so that the average homeowner is now on the hook for over $2,000 dollars in EXTRA tax to fund the district per year. By the way, they are attempting to go to the well AGAIN!

The point is that once a funding source is absorbed into the spending process, it is very difficult to assess how efficiently it was spent, or what the negotiated outcome would have been if the extra funding source had not become available. Passing a parcel tax puts homeowner between a rock and a hard place. And that leverage will be exploited time and time again.

The point is, if you let a child have their ice cream before they clean the dishes it is most likely that you will wake up to a dirty kitchen and the same argument all over again.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by DDdd
a resident of Foothill Place
on Nov 20, 2009 at 8:35 pm

Stacey - I could quote jsut as many sources saying that smaller class size do make a big difference. I think it comes down to common sense. If your child is in a classroom of 100 children and 1 teacher versus a classroom of 5 students and 1 teacher there is most definitely going to be a difference in the learning environment.

Of course its not clear whether 20-1 or 21-1 or 22-1 or 25-1 or 27-1 is better, because nobody has ever done that study.

Its simple, with a good teacher (which most are good to great) the smaller the class size the easier it is to help all of the students.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Amador parent
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Nov 20, 2009 at 8:45 pm

By the way, in my post above 'elevate' was supposed to read 'alleviate' .


 +   Like this comment
Posted by DDdd
a resident of Foothill Place
on Nov 20, 2009 at 8:47 pm

I also have to comment on a video I watched on cnn.com about how Basis Charter school in Arizona is a model for education.

They boast a 100% acceptance rate to 4-year colleges. That's great, but as a charter school they do not need to accept or keep those students who are not 4-year college material (they don't have to accept those special needs students that exist at every public school0. By the way, Pleasanton high schools are around 97%+ acceptance rate to 4-year schools.

They boast their costs are lower. Of course without the high cost of special needs students your cost are immediately reduced significantly.

They claim they pay teachers for performance. Their teachers get paid bonuses based on AP scores. What if a teacher doesn't teach an AP class? (most of a public school classes are not AP)

Its easy to put a school that can make easy choices as model of education, but we are still living in a "No Child Left Behind" age which means our schools are educating everyone, not just those who are highly motivated.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2009 at 10:32 pm

To Amador parent,

"Piedmont is an interesting example of how parcel taxes can get out of control."

Piedmont is one of the best school districts in the country. Their outcomes are the envy of school districts statewide. And what a coincidence, their schools are well funded with parcel taxes. Truly excellent school systems aren't cheap, and they get what the pay for in Piedmont. API scores are tops across the board.

"Passing a parcel tax puts homeowner between a rock and a hard place. "

No it doesn't. Voters can feel free to vote against it at any time. It is no different than passing a parcel tax in the first place.

Let me guess, you would also agree with Wayne Martin that PAUSD should have voted No on Measure A.

Web Link

Let me guess, you are against all parcel taxes. Please correct me if I'm wrong.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2009 at 10:42 pm

To DDdd,

You bring up a good point. People with no expertise in some field or other quote studies to suit whatever agenda they have. Just look at all the internet sites encouraging people to not have their children vaccinated for childhood diseases. All of the studies (or interpretations of studies) are fatally flawed, yet people follow the advice given as if it were fact and wind up risking the lives of their children and others.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 20, 2009 at 11:33 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

HAHA, reader! Thanks for your thoughts. Yes, that is true that studies can be quoted to support whatever agenda one may have, especially when taken out of context. The key is for the reader (*ahem*) to have an ability to discriminate what may be of value.

As you wrote, many of those anti-vaccination studies are flawed in some way. Fortunately, the Tennessee STAR study is useful because it doesn't have those flaws. It is considered to be a well-formed and therefore valuable study. The data is available online for anyone to look at.

DDdd mentions class sizes of 100 while no one has actually suggested that that kind of class size is acceptable. That poster then goes on to refer to common sense regarding 100 children in a class versus 5 children in a class. But what is missing is what the optimal number is that results in the most benefits for the cost. Common sense won't tell you that. If there's only 5 children in a classroom and there's 100 children that need teaching and you're paying $84K a year for an experienced teacher who can handle more, that's probably not a good use of resources.

It's like with school funding. Everyone talks about how more money is needed but without transparency in how money is being utilized or cost-benefit analysis of programs, there's no way to know what amount is adequate. It seems like common sense that $100 will pay for more quality than $5, but what is the real number? I find it ironic when someone criticizes any questioning in this regard because this kind of questioning is exactly what goes on during late-start Wednesdays and is the whole purpose of API and NCLB. Tracking accountability is one of the keys that improved education in California since it was started. California just needs to get its funding system aligned with it now.

Piedmont's success isn't just a result of money. Parental involvement and community self-selection play a large role as well. There was mention about charter schools who do not have to take certain students. Piedmont doesn't have to take certain students either because their parents cannot afford to live there. That's the effect of self-selection, which also occurs in Palo Alto and somewhat in Pleasanton.


 +   Like this comment
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.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 21, 2009 at 9:04 am

Stacey is a registered user.

I don't understand the point of pasting all that from the ed.gov website when absolutely none of those "myths" listed were a part of my argument. And the irony to me is that the paste from ed.gov mentions how well-formed and designed the Tennessee STAR was and this is the only study from which I'm basing my opinions on! If you dig down further into that study rather than just ready summaries of it, you'll discover the 84-some-percent increase in inputs just to achieve the 4-some-percent outputs.

It just goes to further my point about the reader needing to be able to discriminate to what is of value.

All I can deduce from the long paste is that CSR is useful only as a classroom management tool. Is that REALLY the desired outcome?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2009 at 9:31 am

To Stacey,

Maybe the point is that it is easy to misunderstand and draw false conclusions from studies if you have no expertise, experience or training in a field. That was the point I was making about parent who refuse to have their children vaccinated against childhood diseases. They always point to studies, some of them legitimate, and misinterpret them to conclude that the risk of a polio/diphtheria/tetanus shot is worse than risk of getting the disease. They don't have any medical training or experience, just an internet connection.

The same thing happens with people who want to teach "Scientific Creationism" and schools, because they point to studies that they claim prove that the sun can't be more than a few thousand years old. From that the conclude that the theory evolution must be wrong and a literal interpretation of the bible true.

Web Link

Web Link

It easy to draw false conclusions if you have no experience or training in the field.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dark Corners of Town
a resident of Country Fair
on Nov 21, 2009 at 10:48 am

To 'a reader' - Are you suggesting that Stacey has 'no experience or training in the field'? Do you? What are your qualifications to join in the debate about CSR? Or about CA school funding? Or about PUSD finances? Are you going to dismiss anyone who joins in the debate about education because they have 'no experience or training in the field'? Who gets to decide qualifications? Since CSR was part of the debate about the last parcel tax vote, should we disqualify all the voters who are not experts? Help me/us understand your point better, please.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2009 at 2:27 pm

To "Dark Corners",

"Are you suggesting that Stacey has 'no experience or training in the field'"

Yes. She can correct me if I am wrong and will happily agree that she claims to whatever she claims.

"Do you?"

No.

"What are your qualifications to join in the debate about CSR? "

None. I'm only qualified to defer to experts. I am just as unqualified to be able to interpret medical research regarding the efficacy and danger of childhood vaccinations.

"Are you going to dismiss anyone who joins in the debate about education because they have 'no experience or training in the field'?"

No, joining the debate on whether to have a parcel tax is fine. As to someone claiming to understand how to apply the results of the various studies on CSR and apply them to the proper allocation of funds, I'll be skeptical.

"Who gets to decide qualifications?" In the case of medical opinions, there are groups like the AMA. In the case of scientific studies there are many professional organizations who grant credentials. And of course there are academic credentials, such as MS and PHD degrees in the field of interest.

" Since CSR was part of the debate about the last parcel tax vote, should we disqualify all the voters who are not experts? "

No. That CSR was beneficial was never in dispute. Teachers, principals, and experts in the field of K-12 education are in agreement on that. It was just one item on a list of benefits that we may enjoy as the result of passing a parcel tax.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 21, 2009 at 2:42 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

A reader,

Again, it goes back to having an ability to discriminate what is of value, which is an ability that can be developed by anyone. It is only easy to draw false conclusions when some analytical thinking is not being applied.

Or here's better words from a little book I like:
"In the world of practical reality, weighing the facts is a matter of choosing the right standard of proof to give us the degree of certainty we need under the circumstances. We can't be absolutely certain, but we can be certain enough to make a reasonable decision."

I consider the Tennessee STAR study to be of a high standard since it was well-formed and many experts rely upon it. So I can be reasonably certain of the data contained within that study. I don't need to be an expert in the field in order to evaluate that study.

Let me illustrate the study for you. Let's say there's 1000 students. At 25:1 you form about 40 classes. At 15:1 you form about 67 classes. To get from 25:1 to 15:1, you need to hire about 60% more teachers. What do you get out of that investment? 4% more students pass a standardized test in 8th grade. The conclusion that can be made is that CSR is expensive because the gain is so small! That's always been my point about CSR, questioning the cost benefit of it. Is that a false conclusion?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 21, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Can the money be better spent? This goes back into Kathleen's survey I think. Would the community rather spend the money on music, arts, library hours or CSR?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2009 at 4:30 pm

" 4% more students pass a standardized test in 8th grade. "

What is the benefit for K-3? What kind of school districts were considered? Inner city? Suburban? Good districts? Problem districts?

"questioning the cost benefit of it. Is that a false conclusion?"

I think it could be for the reasons listed above and many more.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2009 at 4:32 pm

"This goes back into Kathleen's survey I think. "

I don't object to the idea of a poll. We have to be careful as to how much detail we put in the poll and what kind of questions we ask or we could do more harm than good.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 21, 2009 at 5:03 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Reader,

It is indeed easier to clip my statements in such a way as to change their meaning instead of arguing the actual details.

I wrote: "The conclusion that can be made is that CSR is expensive because the gain is so small! That's always been my point about CSR, questioning the cost benefit of it. Is that a false conclusion?"

Is my conclusion from that study that CSR is an expensive way to obtain such a small gain false? If it is false, show exactly why. Clearly, no one needs specialized knowledge in the education field in order to do simple math (40 divided by 67 is 60%). The only specialized knowledge is the 4% output. That's a fact arrived at from the study and isn't a fact that's open to interpretation, meaning that's what the data shows and not what someone concluded from the data.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2009 at 8:27 pm

"because the gain is so small"

I think "the gain" is not well understood, based on those studies and applied to our situation here in Pleasanton.

"Clearly, no one needs specialized knowledge in the education field in order to do simple math (40 divided by 67 is 60%). "

That is my point. Understanding and applying the results of a study to our particular situation is much harder. That 4% would only apply in some specific situation, would have margins of error, and is in need of interpretation.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2009 at 8:34 pm

A previous poster said that Pleasanton does not have the advantage of a parcel tax that the communities around us have. That person "forgot" to mention that Pleasanton gets significantly more money from the state per student than our surrounding neighbors, thanks to laws made some time ago.

As to the person who wanted to know what the budget committee was up to, I spoke with a couple of the members and they said that committee was a joke. The district came in and made statements, no input was really allowed from the committee. Then the staff at Board meetings said that specific items were discussed by the budget committee when actually there was no discussion; only staff saying those things. Staff wants the public to think that the budget committee came up with ideas but in actuality this committee is a farce. If the district were really interested in the public, they should have members of the public appointed and the ONLY purpose of staff would be to answer questions. Staff would not be allowed to run the meetings like they do now. We will probably have to wait for a change in administration before this happens.

To those who want more money for the district, you should take a look at the fund raising that San Ramon does. It is quite impressive. If you started on a plan now, and started to raise the necessary money, you would know how much money you would have before the district has to make a decision to issue pink slips. The fundraising this last summer in our district was too late and not very organized. Please do not spend a couple hundred thousand dollars on another election! The last one cost us several teacher's jobs in cost. Another election would again be betting a few teacher's jobs to win the election. Fundraising, if organized and using the techniques of San Ramon, is the way to go now.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2009 at 8:58 pm

To "parent",

"Please do not spend a couple hundred thousand dollars on another election!"

An election does not have to cost that much. The last one was a special election. It cost more.

"significantly more money from the state per student than our surrounding neighbors"

Our surrounding neighbors have lower quality schools. Dublin and Livermore are not the competition. Their API scores are significantly lower than Pleasanton's.

"Fundraising, if organized and using the techniques of San Ramon, is the way to go now. "

We need to do that in addition to a parcel tax. All high quality districts have parcel taxes, such as Piedmont, Palo Alto, and San Ramon. Many districts run a first parcel tax that fails, then a second one that passes. Just look at Measure I and Measure A in Palo Alto. We can do the same thing here. The schools have suffered enough from the cut backs. We need to get a parcel tax passed that serves the community's needs.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 22, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

A reader,

I've certainly expected a higher quality of argument from you based upon our past exchange. What's become clear is that you didn't look at the study yourself or you'd already know the answers to your questions and would be able to argue the facts of the study (for example being able to cite some flaw in a study supporting the anti-vaccination position). Instead your line of reasoning just looks like the same old tactic of attacking the person instead of the argument so perhaps this line of conversation has come to an end. It would be just as easy for me to do the same to you and dismiss your claim that a parcel tax should be passed because all the quality districts around the Bay Area have them. If I'm wrong, you're welcome to present data that disagrees with my assessment. Is CSR not an expensive way to increase achievement by 4% and why not? Can that money be better used in something else that may return a higher increase like perhaps more instructional time or getting higher quality teachers? Maybe the students who benefit the most from CSR should be put into their own small class? I guess it isn't allowed to track students anymore.

DDdd's question was fair and I agree that there is value in expert opinion yet that opinion can also suffer from bias, especially when the expert stands to benefit. Let's remember that it was the results of the Tennessee STAR study that lead California to implement a categorical fund for K-3 CSR so someone decided that the STAR study was good enough to try to apply to California. Are you suggesting that that was a mistake because it doesn't precisely apply to Pleasanton's situation? No one is arguing whether or not there is some benefit to CSR. The argument revolves around whether the high cost associated with CSR in order to achieve that 4% is the proper and effective way to be spending taxpayer money. That is all. There is no requirement to have specialized knowledge in order to tell when a 60% increase nets you a 4% output. That's just the bigger picture, or as DDdd would say, common sense.

My primary point has been and always will be that anyone who can utilize critical thinking skills can evaluate data presented to them for themselves. The field becomes irrelevant. In fact, that's the ultimate goal of education: learning how to learn absolutely anything. That isn't to say that the conclusions will always be the same (even amongst experts), only that voters can exercise their God-given mental facilities and use skills anyone can develope to come to well-informed decisions on any topic that is put on a ballot. Isn't that what we should be doing as responsible voters, giving our serious consideration instead of voting based upon what a biased expert says?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2009 at 4:00 pm

To Stacey,

"Instead your line of reasoning just looks like the same old tactic of attacking the person instead of the argument "

I'm not attacking the person. I would be attacking myself in that case. I'm not trying to be insulting. I don't think either of us is qualified to interpret the results of that or any other study to say "Is CSR not an expensive way to increase achievement by 4% and why not?" It might be 4%, it might be 15%.

"Let's remember that it was the results of the Tennessee STAR study that lead California to implement a categorical fund for K-3 CSR so someone decided that the STAR study was good enough to try to apply to California."

I don't recall anyone saying something along the lines of "We are allocating funds for K-3 CSR because we expect to see a 4% improvement in outcomes as a result". Maybe you're following this closer than I am. Perhaps those decision makers expected more. Perhaps the STAR study was only one of the factors they looked act regarding implementing CSR for California.

"Isn't that what we should be doing as responsible voters, giving our serious consideration instead of voting based upon what a biased expert says"

We have to agree to disagree here.

Look at any of the academic research papers cited in that page about the solar neutrino problem. I have a degree in physics, but I really can't follow a lot of what is there. Yet school boards in Arkansas have actually acquiesced to parents who cite those studies (among others) to force the district to teach scientific creationism. The parents had no idea what they were reading. I'm not saying that understanding CSR studies requires the same level of specialized training as those physics papers. I'm just saying that I don't think you can directly apply that 4% to K-3 Pleasanton CSR.

To me this kind of thinking is part of what has gotten California in to so much trouble in the first place. I think we should try to return to representative democracy where we elect officials who share our basic values. The officials can then use experts and specialists to set policy.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 22, 2009 at 7:16 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

"I'm just saying that I don't think you can directly apply that 4% to K-3 Pleasanton CSR."

I'm not directly applying it, but it seems that you are. I've been talking about CSR in general. For some reason you think I'm talking about CSR specifically in Pleasanton and claiming that the 4% increase applies to Pleasanton. Whatever for? Where did I ever claim that all of this is specific to Pleasanton? If we do want to talk about Pleasanton and see that there's no study that specifically investigates CSR in Pleasanton, then there's no data to justify the program at all. It could be 4%, it could be 15%, and it could be 1%.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 22, 2009 at 7:33 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

"Look at any of the academic research papers cited in that page about the solar neutrino problem. I have a degree in physics, but I really can't follow a lot of what is there."

And I'm confident that if you were to take a little time, if you had the interest to, to read those papers closer you could end up being reasonably certain of your conclusions, especially because it is a hard science and not one of these so-called soft sciences. The field of physics, like education, didn't just come from nowhere fully intact and then there were suddenly experts trained in that field. It came about through a process over time of non-experts using their critical thinking skills.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by frank
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Nov 22, 2009 at 7:37 pm

"Look at any of the academic research papers cited in that page about the solar neutrino problem. I have a degree in physics, but I really can't follow a lot of what is there. " Gee, that's too bad. But I have three degrees in physics (all progressive) and I can easily understand the Tennessee STAR study and come to my own conclusions, and not those of "officials (that) can then use experts and specialists to set policy." It is quite simple. A large increase in teacher costs (ratio 15 to 25) resulted in a small (but statistically significant) 4 percent increase in passing standard tests for a certain demographic group. And only for K-3, and the effect only "stuck" for K and 1. Not much bang for the buck, in my opinion!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2009 at 8:33 pm

To Stacey,

"And I'm confident that if you were to take a little time, if you had the interest to, to read those papers closer you could end up being reasonably certain of your conclusions."

Learning the mathematics alone it takes to just to read some of this stuff takes many years of practice and patience. This isn't just basic multivariate calculus and differential equations. It is way, way beyond what the average college educated person could hope to comprehend, let alone draw conclusions such as the age of the sun from. If you don't believe me, read what Hawking or Gell-Mann say about specialized fields in contemporary physics.

I'm not saying the CSR study was like that. What I'm saying is that the study didn't decisively conclude that a 4% improvement in outcomes is what you should expect (with some unknown confidence) if you implement CSR at a class size of 20 for K-3 in Pleasanton. Teachers, principals, and others with training and experience in education would be better able to apply what is in that study to our situation in Pleasanton based not only on that study, but on experience and expertise also.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2009 at 8:42 pm

To frank,

"easily understand the Tennessee STAR study and come to my own conclusions"

You're making my point. You can come to your own conclusions, but they will lack context and the deeper understanding of experience and training in the education field. Same as my conclusions.

"A large increase in teacher costs (ratio 15 to 25) resulted in a small (but statistically significant) 4 percent increase in passing standard tests for a certain demographic group. And only for K-3, and the effect only "stuck" for K and 1."

But does that apply to our demographic and our class sizes? And that 4%, how confident is that?

By the way, what branch of physics did you study? Are you still working in the field. I went in to electrical and computer engineering in graduate school, so I'm not really conversant in physics any more. I think a lot of people are getting disillusioned with theoretical physics with the rise of string theory (M-theory), or whatever they are calling it now. I'm curious as to what you think of that stuff.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a teacher
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2009 at 1:38 am

a reader-

Thank you for tirelessly trying to make your point. I hear it clearly and really appreciate the rationality you add to the debate. I am sorry to hear that after a BA and a Masters in education, plus 16 years of educating over 500 of Pleasanton's children, my input would be reduced to biased but I will share regardless.

When class size reduction was implemented in California, the state standards changed. The expectations and number of standards rose. Middle school teachers were put "on assignment" to help prepare the elementary teachers for the new math that they would be teaching. We now have geometry classes in the eighth grade. These advancements were possible due to smaller classes and increased programs of remediation for those at risk of not meeting the grade level standards. PUSD's rising API scores are tangible local data.

Can anyone tell me how returning class sizes to 30:1 with the same standards in place would help student achievement rise? Isn't this about the individual kids I teach, not the bang for your buck?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a teacher
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2009 at 1:39 am

The article, the Breaking Point published in the Sept Diablo Magazine, compares how and what other East Bay school districts have done to address the funding issues. It talks about how a Foothill High Counselor was able to prevent a teen suicide, but due to last year's budget cuts that same Counselor lost her job. Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 23, 2009 at 8:24 am

Stacey is a registered user.

A teacher,

How does it happen that 30% of the Orinda district's funding comes from fundraising? To echo "a reader"'s logic, all the high quality districts in the Bay Area are supported by great fundraising so we should be doing that too.

I'm also glad you mentioned improved State standards, accountability tracking through API, and CSR because there isn't any data to support an interpretation that CSR caused API scores to go up. Both systems were implemented at roughly the same time. It could be the accountability tracking that improved outcomes or CSR. Since there's no API data from pre-CSR days, there's just no way to be reasonably certain. But according to "a reader", I'm supposed to trust your expert opinion.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 23, 2009 at 9:34 am

Stacey is a registered user.

I don't want to leave the wrong impression. I try to be realistic too but this form of text communication can force truncation of thought and I'm assuming that "a reader" is doing the same. "A reader" describes something more akin to a technocracy than a representative democracy, which obliges citizens to participate through more than just voting. It is idealistic to believe that we'll always vote in someone to represent us that shares certain values, that they'll utilize experts in such a way. But at the same time I recognize that not everyone is going to want to take the time to participate because it may involve more time than they have.

As I wrote above, there is value in expert opinion but there is still bias. Degrees and experience do not confer upon a person some special magic status of being non-biased. There's even studies on researcher bias. And my bias is that of a taxpayer and a parent. I'd rather have my child in a classroom of 30 with a teacher who gets the students excited about learning even though they may not have a Masters than in a classroom of 15 with a mediocre teacher with a PhD. I'd rather have my money used in highly effective programs than in programs where the return is rather small. It _is_ about bang for the buck because the buck is not an unlimited resource. If it were, we could indeed make it about being altruistic. I'd also like to get more bang for my buck in teacher quality. I'd rather be able to pay the best teachers more and get rid of the underperforming teachers.

You know, in some ways this argument reminds me of the story of Pat Kernan telling Kay Ayala that he should be trusted because he's a lawyer and she's not and he says that the contract with Signature was solid. Now that's a great local lesson in why one should not always defer to expert opinion. The experts should first prove that their opinion is worth value.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2009 at 12:40 pm

"The experts should first prove that their opinion is worth value."

Of course experts make mistakes, but I think the above sentence should apply first to non-experts.

I think we just have a difference of opinion at this point. Maybe not all that different.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by To Stacey
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2009 at 3:00 pm

FACT: California currently ranks 48th when it comes to class size ratio per teacher in the entire country. Only 2 other states have higher (Arizona being one of them).

FACT: When class sizes start averaging 30:1 again, which hasn't happened in more than a decade, California will have the highest class size ratio in the country.

Is that really something to be proud of? That we will be LAST in the country?

Since when is education "not much bang for the buck," as keeps getting mentioned here? Don't worry: you will get "bang for your buck" when home prices in Pleasanton remain higher than our neighbors in Dublin and Livermore, when Pleasanton remains a desirable place to raise children because of the excellent schools here.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by To Stacey
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2009 at 3:02 pm

I should have added, "not bad for an investment of $200/year."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 23, 2009 at 5:25 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

And it's also a fact that California has the largest population of students. If other states had as many students, they'd be having similar issues. How does academic achievement in those other states compare with California?

I'm wondering what my investment of nearly $500 a year already is getting me. Overcrowded schools?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 23, 2009 at 5:26 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

I wonder what kind of return on investment those people who paid development impact fees for Neal think they got.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by To Stacey
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 23, 2009 at 7:53 pm

Your investment of $500/year has gotten you one of the best school districts in the state of California. If you had children, Stacey, you would appreciate that.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 23, 2009 at 10:01 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

I know your point is to make me look cheap. It isn't just my money. Taken all together it's millions of dollars with no oversight committee.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: *

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

The valley loses a distinguished and humble leader
By Tim Hunt | 3 comments | 1,486 views

Not Endorsements
By Roz Rogoff | 7 comments | 1,079 views