More Progress with Transfer Review Committee-Was it Enough?

****UPDATED****New information was received.  See highlighted sections below to see the new updated information.

Transfer Review Committee-We Made a Little More Progress-But Was It Enough?

That depends on what you wanted to happen as a result of the Transfer Review Committee’s work.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • Priorities were changed.
  • Application acceptance dates were changed.
  • UPDATED to move ALL intra-district requests BEFORE nonresident requests including renewals.  Not all Tumwater residents will get priority over nonresident transfer students
  • UPDATED to change to a lottery system when spaces are LIMITED.  No changes were made to the inequitable first in-first approved process. 
  • Nomenclature was changed
  • UPDATED-discussion of the addition of dropping off applications at the schools and forwarded to the District Office. All applications must go to District Office.
  • The District can request residency verification from all students if needed.

 As our readers know, I am on the recently formed Transfer Review Committee for TSD.  We had our third meeting on January 13th and made a little more progress so I wanted to provide an update.

Superintendent Dotson provided revised policies and procedures for both the intra-district transfers and the nonresident transfers for our review and feedback. 

UNDERSTANDING THE NOMENCLATURE
The nomenclature was changed to Intra-District and Non-Resident, which reflects the nomenclature in the law.  Intra-District refers to Tumwater Residents who transfer from one TSD school to another.  Nonresident refers to students who reside outside the Tumwater School District area.

CHANGES IN PRIORITY
I discussed the priority proposals that the group voted on in my prior blog (which can be found here), so in this blog I am focusing on the changes proposed at the most recent meeting. 

The following priority was proposed:

1-Students who are children of a full-time certificated or classified employee and are requesting enrollment in the employee’s assigned school or a feeder pattern school”, have first priority above any other transfer or renewal of a transfer, as required by law (RCW 28A.225.225).

2-Intra-District students who would be continuing enrollment at a site or in a program (this would include students impacted by boundary changes and renewals).

3-Nonresident transfer renewal request. (See update.  Note-this gives priority to non resident students over some Tumwater resident students)

4-Students whose siblings are enrolled at the same site. (See update.  Note-Again this gives priority to nonresidents over some Tumwater resident students.)

***UPDATED***
5-Other Intra-District transfer requests.(UPDATED-these have been moved to be prioritized over all nonresident requests including renewals)

6-Other nonresident transfer requests.​

PROCEDURAL CHANGES
The following changes were also included in the procedures:

  • ***UPDATED*** They are discussing the possibility of adding the option of dropping off applications at the schools and forwarding to the District Office. All transfers must go directly to the District Office within the new timelines(details discussed below).  Families used to be able to drop applications off at the schools, but that is not allowed under the new policy.  
  • The nonresident procedures include a requirement that the student must show proof of release from his or her resident district, and submit the proof to TSD.
  • “The District may request verification of residency from all students in a school, grade level, or program when the District determines it is necessary due to space/capacity limitations. Acceptable documents must show the parent/legal guardian’s name and address and must be dated within the past 30 days.  Post office boxes are not acceptable as residence addresses….”

NEW APPLICATION WINDOWS
Given the prioritization changes, TSD has implemented different application windows, depending on your status: The proposed application windows for each priority group are as follows:

  • February (3-28, 2020)
    • Full-time staff; new and renewal per RCW 28A.225.225
    • Intra-district students requesting to continue in their current school(includes boundary displaced and renewals)
    • Non-resident renewals (Note this is prior to new intra-district requests)
  • ​March (2-31, 2020)
    • Intra-District new requests**
  • April (April 1, 2020)
    • Non-Resident new requests(grades 1-12)​**
  • ​August (August 3, 2020)
    • Nonresident new requests(kindergarten)​**

**Siblings of current students will be prioritized for acceptance. 

A couple changes I would like to see, but have yet to be addressed
***UPDATED*** to change to a lottery system when spaces are LIMITED.  The lottery system would require a set date for lottery, which I have not heard of a date at this time.  If after a groups application period there is space for everyone, no lottery wold be necessary, it would only take place if there were more applications than spaces.  I would assume they would have a lottery with each group in order of priority if necessary. 

The proposed policy continues to determine priority based upon “time stamping”, with a first in-first approved for transfer requests.  This has been the prior practice, and I believe has lead to one group over another getting an unfair advantage.  This is still a very inequitable method to accept requests,  especially to many underprivileged families.  This may require “camping out” at the District Office the night before to ensure a child is first in line, taking the day off work to get the application in on the day of acceptance, etc.  This is unfair to many families(dual working parents, those with small children and no day care, those who do not know the system, those who are not computer savvy, etc).  Further, serving the earliest applicants eliminates TSD’s ability to look at the group as a whole and decide where students can be placed that will be a good fit for the student and TSD.   

***UPDATED***this appears to be the updated process (or something similar) as far as I understand.   I would suggest using the timeline windows with no preference given to first in time, provided the application is received within the timeline window.  If there are more applicants than spots, a random draw, with no preference to first in time, is the fairest solution.  The District has in the past used a lottery system (all-day Kindergarten before it was mandated, and required at all schools) and it was a far more fair system.  

From the drafted policies and procedures I also did not see any indication of limiting transfers or working towards limiting transfers.  There was also no indication that the transfers be used to bring the enrollment at both high schools closer.  However, I do hope that by pushing the dates out, TSD moves from an “accept all and figure it out later” to a more deliberate process of accepting transfers.

What was discussed:

I had hoped we would address some of the non-resident transfer procedures at this meeting.  The process we used at this last meeting did not lead to much discussion or exchange of ideas as a committee.  It was more of “social media” project.  For example, we read the policies and procedures(not given in advance) and gave feedback such as, questions, what we liked and/or recommendations for each item.  We had about 10 minutes for each step(to read the procedure and policy, discuss as a small group and give feedback).  Then the next group in the rotation would also give feedback or “like” or “dislike” previous comments.  It felt one dimensional and not as constructive and involved as the last few meetings.  Someone asked if we could vote on the comments, and were told we weren’t doing that this time.  There was no open discussion with the group or between groups.  For instance, my conversations were pretty much limited to the 3 other people in my group, and although we did have some good discussions, no one else in the room or the Superintendent heard or participated in our conversation, and I am sure other groups had a similar experience.  We were told the comments would go to an administrative team at the District office who will go through the feedback and decide if they wanted to incorporate any of the feedback or not. This process has begun and some of the committee comments have been addressed-see highlighted updates.  

The Community Forum is scheduled for January 27, 2020 from 7-8:30 at Tumwater Middle School.  

The policies have been updated since the last committee meeting, so I would suggest attending this meeting as the new draft policy may look very different from what the committee saw at the last meeting.  These documents are still fluid at this point and community comment is necessary to make sure they represent what the community desires.  Do you think they have or have not done enough?  Mark your calendars and plan to attend the Community Forum to let them know what you think.  During this forum, the public will be able to see the policy and procedures drafted at the District Office.  This will be your last opportunity to ask questions and to let the Committee and the District know what your thoughts are on the process and the procedures that have been drafted up to that point. The last community forum I was involved in was fairly informal and small group discussion type idea exchange.  Mark your calendars (January 27, 2020, 7-8:30pm) and plan to attend.

Or contact Superintendent Sean Dotson and the Board Members to give them your thoughts:

Sean.Dotson@tumwater.k12.us

Rita.Luce@tumwater.k12.wa.us

Casey.Taylor@tumwater.k12.wa.us

Scott.Killough@tumwater.k12.wa.us

Melissa.Beard@tumwater.k12.wa.us

Darby.Kaikkonen@tumwater.k12.wa.us

To see what happened at the first meeting you can read my recap here. For the recap of the second meeting click here.

As always, we welcome your feedback and questions.  Contact us at contactus@citizensfortumwaterschools.com

FEBRUARY 11TH BALLOT—2 LEVIES

The TSD Board has decided to run two levies in a Special Election set for February 11, 2020.  We have been receiving lots of inquiries as to what is actually on the ballot, so I figured I would provide a brief outline as to the action TSD is seeking from the voters. According to the TSD website


On November 14, 2019, the Tumwater School Board of Directors passed two resolutions that will place these measures on the February 11, 2020 ballot:

1.Four-year Replacement Educational Programs and Operations Levy. This would allow the district to collect $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value for four years, from 2021-2024, replacing the current levy that ends in 2020. 

2.Two-year Capital Facilities Levy. This would allow the district to collect $10M in funding over two years (2021-2022). The estimated tax impact is $.75 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

I will refer to the 4 year levy as the “EP&O” levy and the 2 year levy as the “Capital” Levy.  

HOW WILL THE PROPOSED EP&O LEVY MONEY BE USED?

The TSD website contains the following description of the EP&O levy:  The Replacement EP&O Levy pays for ongoing costs including educational programs and operating costs that are not fully funded by the State. The Replacement EP&O Levy on the ballot will help support: Additional staff (nurses, counselors, librarians, safety & security), Career & Technical Education and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math programs, Special Education, The Arts, Music and Theater, Advanced Placement, and Athletics .

The majority of the EP&O levy money fills the gap between what the State allocates and what TSD pays its employees.  In addition, the State does not fund many other line items that TSD provides, and I imagine families expect.  The below table shows just a few examples highlighted by TSD:

asic-Ed

The McCleary case determined that basic education should be funded at the State level.  In theory, the State Legislature has determined it will provide funds for basic ed, and the local districts should not have to contribute funds for basic ed. 

I doubt the State is providing adequate funding in most districts and there is no dispute the funding provided to TSD is wholly inadequate, at least in relation to historical practice.   TSD employs more people, and pays those employees more, than the state funding model suggests.  TSD taxpayers generally support additional funding, which has resulted in higher quality staff, and better student/teacher/administrator ratios.  

TSD has traditionally used levy funds to fill the gap.  Just to be clear, this was the practice even prior to the McCleary fix and contract negotiations in 2018.  

HOW DID TSD DETERMINE THE AMOUNT OF THE PROPOSED EP&O LEVY?

This one is easy.  TSD is asking for the maximum amount allowed under the law.  TSD voters previously approved levies that were over $3 per $1,000.  However, as part of the McClearly fix, the legislature capped the amounts local districts could ask for and thus TSD was limited to collecting $1.50 per $1,000 starting in 2019.  While this was supposed to be a permanent fix, with some outcry from those involved with education, the legislature capped the amount at $2.50 per $1,000 starting in 2020.  Under current law, TSD could not run an EP&O levy for any amount greater than $2.50 per $1,000.     

HOW WILL THE PROPOSED CAPITAL LEVY MONEY BE USED?

Here is the description of the Capital Levy provided by TSD:

The Capital Facilities Levy will pay for facility improvements and repairs, pre-planning costs for the next new Tumwater school, improved safety and security of our facilities, critical repairs to our buildings, and new technology for our students.

Here is a list of items that TSD is saying would be funded by the Capital levy:

PO

ARE THE LEVIES NEW TAXES?

Sort of, but the net effect is comparable to what has been collected in past years.  The EP&O levy is a replacement for an expiring levy.  The taxpayers previously approved a similar levy for 2016-2020.  If no action is taken, the levy sunsets so TSD must get voter approval to continue to collect the money.  Almost all districts run levies every 4 years or so.  

While the Capital Levy is a new levy, the rates for the bonds have adjusted, so the net effect if the Capital levy passes is that the amount collected from taxpayers will be very similar to what has been collected in recent years.  Here is a chart TSD used at a recent Board meeting. 

evy-rate

The end result is that if both levies pass, at least for the next two years, TSD will collect roughly the same amount from taxpayers as it has collected in most of the recent years.  TSD has been collecting about $5 per $1000 assessed(a mixture of EP&O levy and Bonds).  The bond rates(green above) that have previously been approved decrease over the next two years.  So, when you tally up the proposed EP&O levy($2.50), Bond($1.75) and proposed Capital levy($.75) the total amount is right at $5 per $1000 of assessed value, which is what TSD has been collecting.

If both levies are rejected, TSD would collect only the bond amount($1.75).  If the EP&O levy is approved and the Capital levy rejected, TSD would collect about $4.25 per $1000.  

As stated above, the EP&O levy is just replacing the old EP&O levy. So, while the Capital levy is a new tax, TSD is banking on the taxpayers being willing to pay the same amount as past years in lieu of receiving a tax reduction of $.75 per $1000 and rejecting the Capital levy.    

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A LEVY AND A BOND?  

TSD has the option of running levies and/or bonds.  I posted a previous blog that detailed some of the differences, which can be found here.  In simple terms:  

1.LEVIES ARE FOR LEARNING AND BONDS ARE FOR BUILDING.  Levies take care of short term operational needs(think salaries, extra curricular activities, maintenance, technology, etc) and bonds are used to fund long term projects(construction of schools).   

2. LEVIES REQUIRE 50% VOTER APPROVAL, WHILE BONDS REQUIRE 60% VOTER APPROVAL.  

WHAT IS THE VOTING HISTORY IN TSD

Over the past few decades, TSD has routinely asked taxpayers to provide additional funding for education and the taxpayers have consistently approved such requests.   See the below chart—-Since 2003, TSD voters have approved each bond and levy put before them, usually by a pretty healthy margin(even though 2003 passed with just .04% to spare). 

***EP&O used to be called M&O—they are the same thing.  

***Levies are in brown while Bonds are in Green.  

WHAT HAPPENS IF THE EP&O LEVY IS NOT APPROVED?

Significant reduction in staff, program cuts across the board, reduction in services, etc.  A levy rate of $2.50 brings in at least $15,000,000 per year(see chart below).  TSD’s total budgeted income is about $94,000,000 a year, so the income from the levy is about 16% of TSD’s total income.   TSD has made a lot of reductions over the past few years, and I do not believe there is much “fat” left to be cut.  TSD has already burned through its savings.  In any budget, a 16% reduction of income would be felt districtwide.  TSD not passing an EP&O levy would necessitate $15,000,000 in cuts, and undoubtedly result in renegotiation of all employee contracts, drastic changes to many programs, reduction in staff, etc.   

evy

WHAT HAPPENS IF CAPITAL LEVY IS NOT APPROVED BY VOTERS?

Like any budget, the import of the listed items is somewhat subjective.  As an example, the preplanning for a new elementary school is a questionable use of resources as TSD should be at least 5 or 6 years from needing another elementary school.  Another flashpoint is the student devices line items.  The 2014 Bond approved Chromebooks for TSD students.  That 2014 bond was a one time shot and does not cover replacement or repair of the Chromebooks.  If TSD wants the students to have Chromebooks, it needs more money.  

That being said, I am not one to throw the “baby out with the bathwater” and appreciate the taxpayers cannot, and should not, be able to line item veto as part of the voting process.  In my view, the bulk of the Capital levy expenditures fall into two categories: (1)modernizing technology/safety and (2) updating infrastructure which may be beyond its useful life. 

The experience of TSD students could be much different if the Capital levy is not approved.  Could TSD effectively educate students without updated devices and network upgrades?   Would an investment in updated devices and network upgrades prove a valuable investment?  Is updating security within TSD a worthwhile undertaking?  Those questions need to be answered by the voters.  

Similarly, it is possible the outdated infrastructure may still have some functional life.  It is also possible a roof will leak, a boiler will fail and there may be some event wherein a sprinkler system at BLE could have been of great value.   If any of those events(along with others we are not even thinking of) happen, TSD would be forced to find the funds to make the repairs.  This would almost certainly strain the budget and result in some loss of, or at least difficulty providing, services.  

CONCLUSION

Rejection of the EP&O levy would result in drastic cuts felt by every student in some manner.  Rejection of the Capital levy would be painful, but not catastrophic.  I believe TSD hit the sweet spot in not seeking an increase, but also asking the taxpayers to invest essentially the same amounts they have been investing.  Thurston Community Media actually put together a youtube video wherein Superintendent Dotson makes a pretty good pitch for the levies.   

 The taxpayers must decide if these expenditures are a good investment.  As is indicated by the voting history, taxpayers in TSD have traditionally been pretty supportive of levies and bonds.  I have heard that some taxpayers are waiting on the outcome of the transfer committee(which should wrap up its work within the next few weeks), expressing some reluctance to approve more funding if TSD continues to have a liberal out of district transfer policy.    

Further, given some of the “open wounds” in the community as a result of the bargaining negotiations in 2018, the TSD leadership may have to work hard to educate the public about any possible levies/bonds that are placed on the ballot.  I would also suggest that TSD put out some information regarding the work of the transfer committee, as that appears to be an important factor with many voters.   

We encourage all voters within the TSD boundaries to get out and vote on February 11th and let your voice(or vote) be heard.  

As always, we welcome your questions, comments or suggestions.    

Scott Kee

Sunday, January 12, 2020

ATHLETICS AND TRANSFERS

The blogs on WIAA Classification and TSD Athletic performance generated a number of inquires about the policies on transfer students when it comes to athletic programs.  In particular, I have been in Tumwater long enough to hear plenty of complaints that students transfer to TSD, and specifically THS, for athletics.  I prefer data over assumptions or guesses, so I wanted to do some research and see if I could come to any conclusions.   We did some research, and came up with some answers to several questions that we thought might be of interest to our followers.  

WHAT IS TSD’S POLICY ON TRANSFERRING FOR ATHLETICS

I could find no express policy with respect to whether or not transfers for athletics are encouraged or discouraged in TSD.  In fact, TSD’s transfer application does not even have a spot to list the reason for transferring.  While I doubt many people would explicitly indicate a transfer is sought for athletics, there is no opportunity to do so on the application. 

In fact, it appears to me that the coaches and athletic directors have very limited knowledge as to whether or not an athlete is a transfer student.   When I asked, many coaches had no idea whether athletes were resident students or transfers.  From what I can tell, once a student is admitted as a transfer he or she is simply integrated with the rest of the population.  

I am aware that there are rumors of athletes being recruited to transfer to TSD schools.  Our investigation, and my experience, found no evidence of any instance where that occurred.  I am certainly not implying that I conducted an exhaustive investigation, but I am pretty familiar with the THS and BHHS athletic programs and can say I found no basis to support any contention of recruiting.  

IS A TRANSFER STUDENT RESTRICTED FROM PARTICIPATING IN ATHLETIC CONTESTS?

With one limited exception, transfer students face no additional restrictions with respect to participation in athletic contests.  The one exception is that a transfer student is ineligible to participate in varsity athletic contests within 12 months of a transfer.  There  are no restrictions with participation in subvarsity athletics. 

ne-year

Notably, to participate as a freshman, a student must establish residency(or transfer status) at the 8th grade feeder school.  As an example, a student residing in another district who initially transferred to TSD as a freshman would be ineligible to play varsity until the sophomore year.  However, a student who transferred to Bush Middle School as an 8th grader, and then was accepted as a transfer to THS as a 9th grader, would be eligible to play varsity as a 9th grader. 

ARE THERE EXCEPTIONS SO THAT TRANSFERS DO NOT HAVE TO SIT OUT A YEAR?

Yes.  The exceptions are set forth in Section 18 of the WIAA rules.  My experience is that there are a couple commonly used exceptions. 

Students who transfer after attending a private school(Evergreen Christian, St. Michaels, etc) do not have to sit out a year.  So, a student who (1)resides outside the boundaries of TSD, (2) went to private school through 8th grade, and (3) is accepted as a transfer student at TSD would not have to sit out the 12 months.  

Similarly, a student who attended K-8 in a District that does not have a high school(Griffin School District) also does not have to sit out the 12 months.  

There are also other exceptions, but, from what I can tell, the other exceptions are infrequently used.  

CAN ATHLETES OBTAIN WAIVERS?

Athletes can apply for a hardship waiver.  My understanding is that hardships are very difficult to obtain.  In speaking with the ADs, it sounds like hardships are only granted in rare circumstances, usually associated with traumatic life events.  An example provided by an AD was that a student was the victim of a violent crime at their prior school, and thus transferred for safety reasons, so a waiver was granted.   Notably, the waiver cannot be granted if there is any evidence that it is sought for athletic purposes.  In addition, the decision is made by a committee appointed by WIAA, and not by the local school.  I think hardship waivers are few and far between.  

WHAT IS THE RATIO OF TRANSFER AND RESIDENT STUDENTS PARTICIPATING IN ATHLETICS IN TSD?

As a refresher, for most schools in our area about 2-5% of the general population of students at any given high school are transfer students.  The rate at BHHS is about 6%, while the rate at THS is about 13%.   Here is a link to the prior blog discussing transfers.  

In short, the participation rate of transfer students in athletics at TSD was fairly surprising to me.   Let me first say that I found no evidence anyone was breaking any rules.  THS has a policy which liberally accepts transfers, a policy which is not prohibited by TSD or WIAA.  Transfer students go through an application process which was created, and is carried out, by TSD.  A little side note—TSD has formed a committee to review the transfer policy.  For more info on that topic, see the latest blog by Tami.   

I surveyed 5 boys teams and 5 girls teams, with no real preference other than the rosters were easy to obtain and I felt 10 teams was a representative sample.  I picked THS because most of the inquiries we received were about THS, and to a lesser degree, it was easier to figure out transfer/resident status as we are more familiar with those families and have better connections when investigating. 

I obtained the most recent varsity rosters and used public property records, social media and old fashioned one on one conversations to determine how many players did not reside within TSD.  Here are the parameters under which I operated:

—-If I was uncertain, I counted the athlete as living within the TSD boundaries.   

—-Because it was too hard to distinguish via public records, I counted all players living within TSD as resident athletes even though some of them should be at BHHS. 

—-Because the football roster is so large, I just looked at the 21 starters for one of the playoff games.  With all other teams, I used the entire varsity roster.  

—-VARSITY= total # of players on the roster.  TRANSFER=total # of transfer students on the varsity roster

—-I used the roster for the most recent playing season.  

TSD’s general student population is 13% transfers students.  Prior to conducting the research, based upon my general observations being around the programs, I figured the rate at which transfers students participated in extra curricular activities was a little higher than the general population.  However,  I did not anticipate the data would reveal 30% of the athletes on the varsity teams reside outside TSD.   

ANALYSIS

Once again, as far as I can tell, everyone is playing by the rules.  That being said, my opinion is that the data highlights a couple problems that should be addressed.  The most concerning aspect for me is that THS has a pretty significant “double whammy” when it comes to creating a competitive advantage over its peers. 

1.    THS is one of largest 2A schools, so its player pool is already larger than virtually every school against whom it competes in the 2A classification.  In the last go around, THS had the 5th largest population of all 2A schools(about 65 schools in total).  THS has over 200 more students than every other EVCO school.    This time around, it appears as if TSD is very near the 2A/3A line of demarcation(900 students).  The larger pool from which to draw athletes invariably brings more talent to the THS teams when compared with smaller 2A schools. 

2.    Compounding that advantage, THS has an inordinate number of varsity level athletes transferring in, which significantly elevates the talent pool from which it selects its varsity athletes. If 13% of the students are transfers, one would expect transfers would occupy about 13% of the varsity spots.  Transfers occupying 30% of the varsity spots indicates that the rate at which transfers participate is much greater than the rate of participation of the resident students.  This is an advantage is unique to THS given the fact that no other school accepts anywhere near the same amount of transfers.  

This competitive advantage has been realized with an unprecedented success rate, as documented in my blog about the athletic performances of THS and BHHS over the last 3 years(TSD teams win about 74% of their games and have won 43% of the EVCO titles over the past 3 years).   

Another side effect of transfer students occupying 30% of the varsity spots is the realization that many resident students are denied opportunities to participate at the varsity level.  I will note that most THS sports practice a “no cut” policy so that very few students are denied the chance to participate in the overall programs, but there are only so many varsity spots.  There are clearly many varsity spots occupied by transfer students that would otherwise be occupied by resident students.  Many resident students who are playing on the JV or C teams would be playing varsity but for the transfers students occupying those spots.  

CONCLUSION

THS is a popular destination for transfers, and THS routinely accepts transfers at a much greater rate than any other school in the area.  All schools accept some transfers(usually in the 3-5% range) and it makes no sense to strictly prohibit all transfers.  Further, the transfer students should be treated no different than resident students once admitted.  

Once again, I do not begrudge any family for opting to do what is best for their particular student athlete.  An accepted transfer student that earns a varsity spot should not be penalized, or judged, because he or she does not reside within the TSD boundaries.  The data does however highlight the fact that TSD has, likely unintentionally, created a situation that has resulted in a less than ideal environment in some regards and TSD should take corrective action.

It is no secret that I believe THS does not face adequate competition, especially in the Evergreen Conference, and should definitely bump up to the 3A classification.  According to timeline put forth by WIAA, that application must be made within the next week or so.  

While no transfer policy should be driven by athletics, the imbalance revealed by the data in this blog provides yet another reason to develop a more deliberate, and equitable, transfer policy that puts the needs of the resident students at the forefront.  Doing so would undoubtedly result in more competitive athletic contests, which would be better for all the athletes involved.  

As always, we welcome your comments, questions or suggestions.   contactus@citizensfortumwaterschools.com

19/20 High School Class Size Investigated

01/01/2020

by Tami Kee

How is TSD doing on class sizes at the High School level? 

Last year I looked at how TSD was doing with class sizes at the high schools.  I thought it would be interesting to see how they are doing this year.  I also completed a couple blogs earlier discussing  the class size in TSD elementary schools and middle schools. For those blogs you can click Elementary, Middle Schools, Last year High Schools.  

A little background….

Unlike class size studies for elementary schools, there isn’t really much out there discussing recommended class sizes for a high school class.  This blog mainly addresses the seats available in the classroom(likely around 25-35) and the stated threshold capacity.  Some classes are more intensive, and take more time outside of the classroom, than other classes.  For instance a PE class is less likely than an English class to add a significant amount of time to a teacher with added students.  With not much outside TSD available, the contract between TEA and TSD is used as the baseline for class size in this discussion.

Article 37.E.5 of the TEA contracts states as follows:

“Secondary Class Size and Targeted Average.
 The employee workload in secondary classrooms (except band, choir, orchestra, and PE) shall average no more than 27 students per period, with a class size of 30 for impact. These calculations shall exclude student assistants or peer tutors. If an individual class exceeds the impact level (30), overload compensation will apply. If the overall targeted average of 27 is exceeded, overload compensation will apply. Employees will only receive overload compensation for one of the two provisions, whichever provides the greater compensation.”

So what does that mean?   Classes averaging more than 27 students throughout the day, or a single class over 30 students were agreed by TEA and TSD as the threshold for impact.  From this one can conclude that 27 is the desired maximum in a class.  From a budget perspective, this means that any class over 30 students automatically qualifies for “overload compensation”, and any teacher who has an average of more than 27 students throughout the day qualifies for “overload compensation”.  

What classes at BHHS and THS would be considered “overloaded” based on the 27 student maximum? 

Both high schools have several classes that are over the threshold of 27 students, with many over the 30 student threshold too. (Band, Choir, Orchestra and PE were not included in this investigation).  It appears that, for the most part, there are fewer overloaded classes compared to last year, and the average class sizes for the most part are lower with some exceptions.  This could be due to the drop in overall enrollment in the District.  

English, Math, Science, and Social Studies, are, on average, more overloaded than non-core classes.  The following chart was compiled from the data showing the sizes of English classes at both high schools:

The Freshmen English classes are close to where they should be for student-teacher ratios.  The average Freshman English class sizes at BHHS and THS sit at 26.5 and 26.3 respectively.  This is right at the threshold for capacity so it stands to reason that there would be a few classes that go over the threshold based on scheduling the students. So having 17%-29% of the classes over the 27students would be expected.  The Freshman Honors classes have fewer students at both BHHS and THS with average classes sizes of 23.7 and 21.5, respectively.  

The Sophomore English classes are close to where they should be for student-teacher ratios.  The average Sophomore English class sizes at BHHS  sits at 26.6 with 40% over the 27 student threshold.   THS sits at and average of 25.4 with 14% over the 27 student threshold.  These classes are right at the threshold for capacity so it stands to reason that there would be a few classes that go over the threshold based on scheduling the students.   The Sophomore Honors English classes are also sitting right at capacity at both BHHS and THS with average classes sizes of 26.6 and 26, respectively.   BHHS has 33% of their Sophomore Honors English classes at or over the 30 student threshold, this is not desirable since hitting the 30 student threshold triggers the impact pay for the teacher.  

The Junior and Senior English Classes are also close to where they should be for student-teacher ratios.

The average Junior English class sizes at BHHS and THS sit at 24.3 and 26, respectively.  Both BHHS and THS have a few classes over the 27 student threshold and BHHS has 25% over the 30 student threshold.  The average Senior English class sizes at BHHS and THS sit at 24.9 and 24, respectively.  The AP English classes at both high schools have averages between 17 and 22 students, and none of these classes are over the the threshold.  THS has English 101 at the High school with an average of 24 students. 

The same approach with the math classes is as follows:

With Math classes, there are still some classes that are well over the capacity.  BHHS has a few classes with averages over the 27 student threshold and in each of those, with 17%-100% at or over the 30 student threshold in those classes.  BHHS also has a couple classes with enrollment of 12.8 and 14, which is well below the student threshold and not desirable from a budget perspective.  THS has a couple classes over the 27 student threshold and only Accelerated Integrated Math III with 67% at or over the 30 student threshold.  As discussed earlier, having classes at or over the 30 student threshold is not desirable as it triggers the impact pay for the teacher and affects the budget. 

The same approach for Social Studies classes at both high schools is as follows:

Most of the Social Studies classes are below the 27 student threshold with a few exceptions.  For example, Civics at BHHS has an average class size of 28.3 with every class at or over the 27 student threshold.  The same course at THS has an average class size of 26.7 with 57% of the classes over the 27 student threshold.    Psychology is another course where BHHS has an average class size over the 27 student threshold with an average of 28.3 with 67% over 27 students and 33% at or over 30 students.  This same course at THS has an average of 26.5 with 50% over 27 students.  

On the other end of the spectrum are the AP US History classes at THS with an average of 18.3 students, well below the 27 student threshold, which is not desirable from a budget perspective.

The same approach for Science classes at both high schools is follows:

For the most part, science classes are below the threshold, with many well below the threshold of 27 students.  The only courses above the threshold average are Physical Science classes at THS where 50% of classes are over 27 with an average of 27.1 students and 13% at or over 30 students.   However, there are several science courses at both high schools, with averages as low at 11.5 students per class.  AP Biology, Phyisics, Chemistry, Earth Science, and Enviro and You at BHHS and Honors Chemisty at THS are the smallest class sizes ranging from 11.5 to 16 students.  This is not desirable from a budget perspective.  

Last year we highlighted the over crowding in the Health classes at both high schools.  This year appears to be the same.

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BHHS has 44% of Health classes over 27 students with an average of 27 students per class.  In contrast, THS has 70% of its Health classes over 27 students, and 50% at or over 30 students, with an average of 28.6 students per class.  Both schools have more students, likely Freshman, than they have spots in Health classes. 

The primary variables that affect overcrowding are the number of teachers and the number of students, both of which TSD controls to a significant degree.

The number of incoming residents students is fairly predictable, and TSD can control the number of transfer students approved.  It would seem logical for the decision on transfer students to be made in the summer(after most “move ins” have occurred), when enrollment is more predictable and TSD knows how many resident students will be in the classes.  Our understanding is that this has not been the past practice. 

However, TSD has a Transfer Review Committee formed that is working on some suggested changes to the current transfer processes.  Ideally, the master schedule would be set with the resident students placed, and at a later date, the non resident students placed in classes where available space exists.  

Letting the transfer students in before the spaces available have been determined does not make sense unless TSD decides to add more classes/teachers, which has budgetary impact.  

Conclusion.

The TEA contract allows for classes to be overloaded as long as the teachers are compensated, which may not be a bad option at the HS level.  However, similar to elementary classes, when class sizes increase in a high school class, this can create class management difficulties and increase the work load of the teacher.  Limited desk space may also pose a challenge if the class sizes are large enough.  Overall, this year there are fewer classes with overcrowding which is likely due to the lower total enrollment, and/or better distribution of teachers and students.

The current budget situation may affect the class sizes in the future. The Board opted to keep using savings instead of making severe cuts this year, which meant TSD ran at approximately a $2 million deficit this school year.  The TSD Board will need to cut at least $2MM from the budget next year to keep from going below the required minimum fund balance(which is required by law to keep).  This may mean class size increases, either by having fewer teachers and/or fewer class options.  

The raw data from our records report can be found on our documents page, here.

As always Scott and I welcome comments and questions.  Please email us at Scottkee@citizensfortumwaterschools.com