DUAL CREDIT OPTIONS IN THE HIGH SCHOOLS

This blog explores some of the Dual Credit options at TSD.  Dual Credit is any course where students can get College Credit and High School Credit in the same course. Virtually all of the students who obtain dual credit do so through four programs, Running Start (RS), College in the High School (CIHS) Advanced Placement (AP) classes, and Career & Technical Education (CTE). Students can earn credit through one, or all, of the aforementioned.  Students can enroll in more than one type of dual credit course. While there may be some scheduling logistics, student can cross over between programs.   

Having had 2 high schoolers who have gone through THS, I also offer some personal insight regarding experiences from our family.

Advanced Placement(AP)—AP classes are run by the College Board and offer college level curricula, with the option to take a year end examination that allows students to earn college credit.

Students can earn anywhere from 3 to 15 hours of credit if they pass the year end test. The credit earned varies depending on the score, the course and the college(I will use college and university interchangeably within this blog).  Here is a link to the equivalency chart for the University of Washington showing the credit that can be earned. https://admit.washington.edu/apply/transfer/exams-for-credit/ap/

Students generally pay about $90 per class to take the year end test. The class is taught by a high school teacher who has been certified to teach AP classes.  About twice as many students take AP classes as enroll in RS.   

Students are not required to take the AP test, and earn high school credit just like other classes even if they do not take the AP test.  Students can also take the AP test without actually taking the class.

The AP Test is administered by a National Board(like the ACT and SAT).    The cost to the school for AP courses is very minimal, and all the state funding remains at the school. 

Here is a good link with some pros/cons about taking AP classes.  https://www.collegeraptor.com/getting-in/articles/college-applications/pros-cons-taking-ap-classes-high-school/

Running Start—RS was started in the early 1990s and is fully funded by the State of Washington. This program allows juniors and seniors to enroll in college and attend classes on campus(or online) at the college.  RS courses are not on the high school campus. The RS students go to the college campus with the general college population. Most TSD students who utilize the Running Start option attend South Puget Sound Community College(SPSCC). Here is a link to the SPSCC Running Start page.https://spscc.edu/runningstart

Students can attend full time or part time.  If a student attends full time, he or she is not required to attend any high school classes.  Part time RS students are required to attend high school so that they have the equivalent of a full time course load. 

Here are the most recent enrollment stats for the Running Start program.

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RS students do not have to pay any tuition (the State picks up the tab), but do have to pay for their books and any class fees (Usually a few hundred dollars a quarter).

Notably, RS students are treated like college students. Once enrolled, the high schools really have no way to track the students.  Privacy laws (FERPA) restrict information that can be provided to high schools and parents.  Generally, the high school simply gets a report back from the college as to what grades the student obtained that quarter.  Also, based on the FERPA laws, once a student attends a school beyond the high school level, the parents no longer have access to the student’s records.

RS students earn high school credit for college classes.  In fact, one quarter of a five credit hour class at SPSCC is usually the equivalent of one year at the high school.  As an example, English 101 at SPSCC(a 12 week course) is the equivalent of a full year of 11th grade English.  Many students are able to obtain an Associates Degree in the RS program.

Virtually all of the State funding follows the student, so the state allocation for full time RS students goes to the college.  The funds for part time students are prorated between the high school and the college.       

Here are some stats from the SPSCC website promoting the Running Start program.

College in the High School—This program is a partnership between high schools and colleges where college level classes are taught in the high schools.  Unlike AP(where the curricula comes from the College Board), the curricula comes from whatever college with which the high school has partnered.  The colleges TSD schools have partnered with in the past include SPSCC, University of Washington, and Eastern Washington. 

Students who elect this option pay a fee charged by the college. The fee is anywhere between $90 and about $325 per class, and is set by the college.  TSD does not pay any additional costs to the college.  The class is taught by a high school teacher employed with TSD.  Teachers who teach CIHS classes are certified by the college, and teach the college curriculum. 

In speaking with administrators, there appears to be a deliberate effort to expand the CIHS programs.   The logic is that students can take college level classes without having to leave the high school campus, and therefore benefit from the resources at the high school, and remain with their peers for the high school experience.  Further, the state funding allocation remains at the high schools and there are no costs in addition to those incurred with other students. 

Students can take as many, or as few, CIHS classes offered as they desire, with the balance of the student’s schedule being filed by other high school classes.  While students cannot earn an associates degree, CIHS offers the opportunity to earn some college credit(usually 5 quarter credits per course) prior to graduating. 

One of our daughters earned 10 credit hours through Eastern Washington University in a CIHS pre-calculus class and the cost was about $700.  The cost is dependent on the agreement with the colleges. My understanding is that BHHS and THS have both worked out agreements with colleges that have reduced the costs significantly, some as low as $90 per class. 

Career & Technical Education- CTE classes integrate dual credit academics with technical skill development to help prepare students for advanced education and careers related to “professional-technical” occupations. The CTE classes are designed to teach an applicable skill, trade or vocation, with less emphasis on traditional academic learning.   The CTE Dual Credit program helps students transition from high school into postsecondary professional technical programs.   Much like CIHS classes, dual CTE classes are taught at the TSD schools.  There are usually nominal fees paid by the student, and no extra cost to TSD.   Not all CTE courses are dual credit courses. Taking a CTE course is also now a graduation requirement.

High schools and colleges enter in to consortium agreements that ensure courses taken lead to, prepare students for, and some courses can lead to credit for college courses. These courses fall within a career pathway and can move a student towards completion of a certificate or degree in that field.

One of our daughters picked up 12 hours of CTE credit by taking a Microsoft Office class offered at THS through SPSCC when she was a freshman.

ABOUT 39% OF STUDENTS ARE ENROLLED IN A DUAL CREDIT PROGRAM.

Overall, about 39% of students are enrolled in a Dual Credit program at any given time.

The following two charts show the percentage of students enrolled in at least one dual credit program for each of the past 5 years.

While enrollment was much greater in 2015 at THS, and 2015 & 2016 at BHHS, it appears enrollment over the last three years has been pretty stable. 

Some programs are even offered to Freshman(most often CTE). The below charts show the percentage of students at BHHS and THS enrolled in at least one dual credit program.

HOW DO COLLEGES LOOK AT THE VARIOUS DUAL CREDIT OPTIONS.

I do not pretend to have a complete answer, but can offer some personal experience.  From what I can tell, if a student obtains an Associates degree, most colleges in Washington, and many colleges in the region, accept the credits pretty much “as is.”  There certainly are exceptions as I have heard many stories about credits not transferring. 

If a student does not obtain an Associates degree, colleges just gauge the course and credit (in each of the Dual Credit programs) similar to any request by a transfer student.

Our oldest daughter(class of 2017) obtained her Associates degree and her credits transferred pretty much without exception to an out of state public institution. 

Our second daughter(class of 2020) is on track to get her Associates Degree.  During her application process, some of the schools(UW, BYU, Vanderbilt, Stanford) indicated to us that AP classes are more impressive than Running Start or CIHS classes.  They each made clear that RS and CIHS was not a disqualifier by any means, and the dual credit was just a small piece of the puzzle in any application, but AP is preferred between the three options. 

This makes sense as national studies show students who successfully complete AP classes, when compared with students who obtain dual credit through other means, are more likely to have academic success in college. This is obviously a generalization based upon a compilation of individual cases, any of which may be the exception to the general rule.

WHY DO STUDENTS OPT FOR DUAL CREDIT CLASSES?

Lots of reasons, there is no universal answer. 

Dual credit, especially Running Start, is very attractive economically.   Students can essentially get their first 2 years of college paid for and walk out of high school with an Associates Degree.  I know several 20 year old Running Start alums who are walking around with Bachelor’s degrees.

On the other side, it is difficult, if not impossible, for the high schools to track students at SPSCC, and make sure that students are having success and are on track to graduate.    

Dual credit, especially AP and CIHS offer a more academically challenging environment than general education classes.  AP classes are rigorous, often more rigorous than RS and CIHS classes.  I think it is pretty much accepted that the AP curricula is the most challenging of the options.  Of course, success in a challenging curriculum is more likely to lead to better opportunities, especially regarding college preparedness.  

As always, we welcome any feedback.




	

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

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.

creen-Shot-2020-01-01-at-9.49.33-PM

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

2019/20 Middle School Class Size Investigated

How is TSD doing on class size at the Middle School level? 

A previous blog discussed the class size in TSD elementary schools and High Schools.  Unlike class size studies for elementary schools, there isn’t really much out there discussing recommended class sizes for secondary classes. (you can read the latest blog on elementary class size here). 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?   A teacher having 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 BMS and TMS would be considered “overloaded” based on the 27 student maximum? 

Both middle schools have several classes that are over the threshold of 27 students, with many over the 30 student threshold. (Band, Choir, Orchestra and PE were not included in this investigation).

The following chart was compiled from the data showing the size of English classes at both middle schools:

BMS and TMS both have several English classes that would be considered overcrowded using the 27 students per class as the line where a class is “overloaded”.  Most classes have an overall average below the 27 threshold with the exception of BMS 7th grade English and BMS 8th grade Honors English.  

6th Grade English.  BMS has 30% of their classes over 27 students and 10% at, or over, 30, where TMS has 11% over 27, and no class at 30 or over. The overall average 6th grade English class size at BMS sits at 25.9, and at TMS it is 24.8.   

7th Grade English.  BMS has more 7th grade students than it has room for.  BMS has 88% over 27 and 50% at or over 30 students.  The average class size for 7th grade English at BMS is 29.3, which is above the 27 threshold.  TMS has 22% of its 7th grade English classes over 27, and none at or over 30, with an average class size of 23.2.  

TMS does not have any 8th grade Honors English classes over 27, with an average class size of 24.  In contrast,  every 8th grade Honors English class at BMS is over 27, and 67% have 30 or more students, with an average of 30 students per class.   The average for the classes at BMS indicates there are more 8th grade Honors English students than there is room for at BMS  The 8th grade English classes at BMS only have 17% at 30 with an average of 21.5.  It might be possible to have added an Honors class and taken away a regular English class to alleviate this, but there are a few things that would have to align to make that a workable possibility.

The same approach with the math classes is as follows:

With Math classes, the more advanced math classes are overloaded.  For instance, at both BMS and TMS the 6th Compressed Math(BMS only), 7th grade Compressed Math and the Integrated Math are significantly overloaded with averages all over 27. Almost every level of math class have a number of classes with more than 27 students.

*Although, I could not locate the data for TMS 6th grade Compressed Math, it appears that course is not offered at TMS.  TMS 6th Grade Math have 67% of the classes with more than 27 students, and 17% with 30 or more students and an overall average of 28 students.  BMS has nearly 30% of the 6th grade math classes with 30 or more students.  

The Integrated Math classes at BMS all have more than 30 students, with an average of 32.5 students.  TMS is slightly less crowded with an average of 28.5.  Both schools have more students taking Integrated Math than they have space.

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

With Social Studies classes, the data seems to follow the English data for both BMS and TMS.  Meaning, the courses for each grade are overloaded if the English classes for that grade are overloaded.  

For example, 20% at BMS and 44% at TMS of the 6th Grade Social Studies(SS) classes are over the 27 students threshold. 

7th Grade SS is greatly overcrowded at BMS as were the 7th Grade English classes, with 75% of SS classes over 27 students and 63% at 30 or more with an average class size of 29.1.  This would suggest BMS has more 7th grade students than they have space if several of the core classes are overloaded.  7th Grade SS at TMS are also overcrowded with 50% over 27 students and 13% with 30 or more students and an average class size of 27.1.

BMS also has several 8th grade SS classes over the 27 threshold (44%) and 33% at 30 or more students with an average of 25.6 students.

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

The science classes also follow trends from the data above. 

BMS has 67% of 6th Grade Science classes over 27 and 33% at 30 or above with an average of 28.6.  There are more 6th grade students than they have science class space.  TMS is a little better, but still has 56% of the 6th grade science classes over 27 with an average of 25.7.

As the previous core classes also indicated there are more 7th grade students at BMS than there are space in the core classes.  At BMS 44% of the 7th grade science classes have more than 27 students and 33% have 30 or more students with an average of 26.8.  Again TMS is a little better with 25% of 7th Grade Science classes over 27 and an average of 26.6 students.  Both are approaching an average number of students that would make it impossible to keep class sizes below the threshold without adding more teachers and cost. 

BMS is also has 44% of 8th Grade Science classes above 27 students and 11% at 30 or above with an average of 24.9.  TMS is much better with no classes over 27 students in 8th Grade Science and an average of 23.6.

From the data above it is clear there are more students in each grade at BMS than spots available in most of the core classes.  Similarly, TMS has several core classes that are overcrowded but to a lesser degree than BMS.

In looking at other classes taken by students, there is a clear overcrowding of these classes also.  This further supports there are more students at the middle schools than they have space.

This conclusion is highlighted when looking at the Health classes:

creen-Shot-2019-12-17-at-5.10.07-PM

BMS has 88% of its 6th Grade Health classes over 27 students, and 63% at 30 or more students, with an average of 29.1 students per class.  BMS also has 50% of its 7th Grade Health classes over 27 and 25% at 30 or more, with an average of 26.9.  BMS has 38% of 8th Grade Health classes over 27 students with and average of 26.4.

It is always going to be that there are some hours during the day where a course may be more crowded than another, however, when the average number of students is more than the threshold, or very close, it is more likely to have several classes that are over that threshold.  The charts above are a good example of this happening in our schools.  BMS clearly has more students than it has spaces, unless they hire more teachers at a cost or overcrowd the classes and over work the teachers, giving them a little extra compensation.

The variables that effect overcrowding are the number of teachers and the number of students, both of which TSD controls. 

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 is not the current practice.  However TSD is in the process of changing the transfer practice.  I have written a couple blogs on the process up to this point.  You can read them here and here

Since TSD does not keep track of the which grades the non-resident students are in, it is difficult to say exactly how much of an effect this has had on the class size.  For example, BMS has 23 non-resident students and TMS has 27 non-residents, these non-resident students could be split evenly or all could be in one grade. Without the data collected and stored, it is impossible to know which is accurate.  This would make a significant difference in the class sizes if they are all in the same grade.

In my opinion, letting the transfer students in before the spaces available have been determined does not make sense unless TSD decides to add more classes/teachers at a cost.  Transfer students can be helpful to the budget if placed in classes that have available spaces.  TSD has not made adequate effort to place non-resident students where we need space until the last couple years (and, it appears, only at the elementary level).  There still needs to be improvement at the elementary level, as well as the secondary level.  I am hopeful they are going to implement some changes so that we see less overcrowding and non-resident students are used to fill in gaps, not add to the overcrowding in our already overcrowded classes.  

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 MS and/or 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.  Also, with the move to a more inclusive environment(SpED), class management will continue to deteriorate if class sizes do not go down.  Limited desk space may also pose a challenge if the class sizes are large enough.  It would appear that either a misappropriation of classes/teachers has occurred or a miscalculation on the number of students attending the middle schools. 

The miscalculation is evident with each grade at BMS and TMS.  

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

Transfer Review Committee-We made a little progress

As our readers know, I am on the recently formed Transfer Review Committee for TSD.  We had our second meeting on December 9th and made a little progress so I wanted to provide an update.

We took what we discussed at the last meeting and made some decisions for recommendations for Superintendent Dotson.  He plans to take our recommendations and draft a policy for Inter-zone transfers.  We have yet to delve deeply into the nonresident student policy, which I hope will be done at the upcoming meetings.

Sean Dotson asked the group to approve(via a vote) some basic principles which surrounded prioritizing transfer requests.  These are the suggestions from the committee(as I understood them), which will be presented to the Board for consideration:

  • Changing the nomenclature to match what is in the statutes.  “Inter-zone” student instead of “intra-district” student and “non-resident” student instead of “inter-district” student.
  • Give School Staff children first priority, before any transfer student, including inter-zone and nonresident renewals, siblings etc. 
  • Give all inter-zone transfers priority over any non-resident student, including renewals, siblings, etc.
  • With-in the inter-zone transfers, give students displaced by the boundary change priority over other transfer students.  However, the priority only applies to students currently enrolled in the schools and lasts only until those students finish 5th grade since the middle schools and high school boundaries were not changed.  As an example, a transfer student at the elementary school would be given no priority when applying at the middle(or high) school, with no priority to siblings who are not currently enrolled in the elementary school.

For the next meeting:

I hope we address some of the non-resident transfer procedures at our next meeting.  I am hopeful that the District is trying to address the concerns brought up in the Thought Exchange.  From the comments and ratings in the Thought Exchange it appears that the general desire was to limit and possibly phase out most non-resident transfers to the extent possible. The committee has yet to delve into that work, but I am hoping to get there.

As a side note, in our meeting, the comment was made that “since the State gives us money for the nonresident transfers shouldn’t we just accept as many as apply?”.  If you are still unclear about how the funding for students works and how non-resident students impact the budget you can check out Scott’s blog from a few months ago, here.  In short, the per student cost TSD reports to OSPI is about $2000 higher than what the state actually provides to the district per student.  The district fills that gap with levy funds collected from Tumwater taxpayers.  While the manner in which TSD has accepted non-resident students in the past has had a negative effect on the budget, with a more deliberate process, strategically placed non-resident students could actually have a positive effect on the budget.  Scott and I are optimistic that such a result will be part of the a product of the transfer committee’s recommendations.  

Superintendent Dotson indicated he would work on drafting some policies and procedures consistent with the above and we will discuss those policies and procedures at the next meeting which is set for January 13, 2020.

In the interim, I would welcome any input for consideration by the Committee.

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

During this forum, the committee will present its original recommendations.  This will be your opportunity to ask questions and to let the Committee and the District know what your thoughts are on the process and the procedures we have drafted up to that point.  Mark your calendars and plan to attend.

To see what happened at the first meeting you can read my recap here.

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

Elementary Class Size Re-Investigated

Since I wrote the Blog in the Spring about class sizes and noted several classes were above impact, we requested the class sizes for this year to see how they compare.  Since the strike in the summer of 2018, the community has heard a lot of concerns surrounding class size.  This Fall brought on more restrictions with the implementation of the K-3 legislation.  This Blog entry looks at elementary class size in TSD this year compared to last year.  

Starting with a little background.

CLASS SIZE AND HOW IT AFFECTS THE BUDGET

Class size management is an important component of the budgeting process.  For example, the simplest way to reduce class sizes is to provide more teachers, which comes at a cost.  With budgeting, the “impact” number is also an important component.  Having classes at, or over, impact also comes at a financial cost to TSD. From a budgeting standpoint, the ideal scenario would be one where every class is just below impact.   

The contract negotiated between TEA and TSD specifies an ideal maximum class sizes(“impact”), which varies with grades/classes. Depending on grade, level impact numbers at TSD are 22-27 for elementary age.  The following table is from the current TEA/TSD contract from this fall. This is the list of impact numbers at each grade level.  Once a class exceeds this number it is considered at impact.

lass-size-elementary

Once enrollment in a class is over impact, TSD is required to (1) provide a paraprofessional in the class for 2.75 hours of the day (this appears to be the total regardless of how many students over impact), or (2)compensate the affected teacher with an “overload payment”(elementary: $22 per day per student over impact).  The wording in the contract leaves it up to the teacher’s discretion which option they choose.

From contract Article 37.D.2:

“Impact Paraprofessional Time.
The District and the Association are committed to work toward class sizes that do not exceed the class size levels shown in the chart below. If a level is exceeded, elementary teachers shall be entitled to
two and three quarter (2.75) hours of “impact paraprofessional” time, assigned to the individual classes that exceed the class size level, unless other creative solutions are /developed at the site. Teachers may elect to receive overload payment or other flexible options in lieu of paraprofessional time”

Studies have shown that classes being at or over impact results in a less than ideal learning environment(unless a paraprofessional is also in the class). The Blog I wrote last year sites some of these studies and goes more in depth in this discussion and can be found here.

SO HOW IS TSD DOING ON CLASS SIZES COMPARED TO LAST YEAR?

See the chart below, the red numbers indicate the class is over impact.  

Class sizes from October 2019

creen-Shot-2019-11-19-at-6.26.57-PM

The class counts listed in red are classes that are over impact.  This year we also requested information on how many paraprofessionals are in the classrooms.  In looking at the data, it appears there are only 2 paraprofessionals who are assigned to work in the classes over impact at the elementary level.  Looking at the chart above, there are 17 classes over impact, which would mean most teachers have opted to take the impact pay over having a paraprofessional in their classrooms.  

The chart below breaks down the percentage of classes at and over impact by school.This Fall, 13% of the classes at the elementary level are over impact and another 8% are at impact.  Some elementary schools have more classes at and over impact than others. Last year 22% of the classes at the elementary level were over impact and another 17% were at impact, so the number of classes at impact has significantly reduced over the last year.   PGS has the most classes over impact, followed by LRE and EOE.  All the classes at BLE and THE fall below the impact number set by the TEA contract.  

creen-Shot-2019-11-19-at-5.19.56-PM

It should also be noted, that beginning this fall,TSD was required to have K-3 classes at a maximum of 17 or forfeit significant funding.  Currently, only 3 of the 88  K-3 classes in TSD(3%) meet this criteria in strict application.  This is actually less classes meeting this criteria than last year(11% met the 17 students or less criteria last year).  But as I understand, the legislature put in place some ways around an actual class size of 17.  The school districts are allowed to also count all certificated teachers including specialists as part of the teacher/student ratio.  I am uncertain if TSD was able to get the numbers to work out to be able to receive the additional funding.

THERE ARE DIRECT FINANCIAL CONSEQUENCES WITH HAVING CLASSES OVER IMPACT.

At the time of our records request the elementary schools had a total of 17 classes over impact and a total of 30 students over impact.  So that is 17 classes that either have a paraprofessional or provide extra compensation to the teacher.  Providing the extra compensation to teachers pursuant to the contract is $22 per day, per student, would result in a total of $660 per day and $118,800 for the school year.  If, instead, TSD paid 17 paraprofessionals the required 2.75 hours in each class the would cost somewhere between $134,000-$185,000.  Notably, these numbers do not factor in the cost of benefits, which is probably at least another 20% or so. Of course, TSD does receive approximately $9,000 per year per student in state funding so it can help the balance sheet to put students in classes over impact.    

In the scheme of an $85 million dollar budget, the financial cost is pretty minimal, and probably requires little consideration.  However, the greater cost is to the students in each of those over crowded classrooms, especially low income and minority students.  While the financial cost to pay a teacher impact fees would be less costly than assigning a paraprofessional in the classroom, from a student’s perspective and a parent’s perspective, studies support the position that another professional in the classroom helps to mitigate the negative impacts of overcrowded classrooms.  I was unable to find a study that investigated whether paying a teacher more to have a larger class also mitigates the impact.  With the current budget situation, TSD schools will continue to be faced with some difficult decisions regarding which of these choices is best for the students in TSD.  It would also be interesting to know which of these classes have out of district students which may also contribute to the over crowding.  We have asked TSD for this data and have been told they do not keep data on which grades in each school out of district students are currently assigned.  This might be data that would be helpful in determining how well we are doing at strategically placing out of district students, but without this data we can only assume a straight percentage which would mean that close to 3-6% of the students in each class are out of district and therefore account for the overcrowding in each of these classes.

As always, we welcome comments and questions.  Email us here.

BUDGET DISCUSSIONS PART 2(OVERALL VIEW)

This is my second of three installments talking about the budget, and what I have observed from the TSD Board and Administration.  My first installment in this series is available here.  

The TSD Board approved the 2019/20 budget at the August 22, 2019 meeting.  The budget represents a change of course in some regards, which is a breath of fresh air.  I reference the budget workshop that occurred on August 8th, which provides quite a bit of specific information and can be viewed here.  Well worth the time if you are interested.   

CONSERVATIVE ENROLLMENT NUMBERS

TSD experienced a pretty consistent upward growth in enrollment(roughly 3% per year) between from 2014 to 2017, with a large decrease(about 5%) in 2018. The disconnect between TSD and TEA about enrollment was the primary cause of the ongoing labor dispute in 2018.  In an effort to justify their financial positions, TEA said enrollment would be high, and TSD said it would be low.  Neither of them worked off of actual enrollment.  That has changed this year. 

TSD is projecting enrollment at 6495 students, very similar to last year—which makes the most sense.  (See enrollment chart at 10:24 of the workshop video for historical enrollment).    This number is about 300 less than the 2017/18 and about 300 more than 2014/15.  Most important, the projection represents the actual number of students enrolled in the most recent count.

TSD is down about 300 students from 2017/18, which is an anomaly given the fact that enrollment consistently increased in the previous decade.  In any event, basing a budget on actual students attending school seems like the best policy.     

THE 2018/19 BUDGET PROJECTS USING $1.8MM IN SAVINGS TO BRIDGE THE PROJECTED DEFICIT.  

TSD is essentially a non-profit business.  Think of it the same way you do your household budget.  The total income and expenses are each roughly $85-90 MM(million) per year. Hopefully the income is a little more than the expenses and some money can be tucked away in savings.  So, when the income is more than expenses(see 2014-17), TSD puts money into savings.  When the expenses are more than the income(see 2018-19), TSD dips into the savings account. 

TSD had a surplus of $1.27MM in 2017/18, and saved about $1MM per year on a consistent basis between 2014 and 2017, which resulted in a significant increase(about $5MM) in the fund balance(savings account). 

However, last year was a different story. TSD spent about $1.3MM(million) more than it took in during 2018/19.  The approved budget for upcoming year projects that TSD will spend about $1.8MM more than it will take in during 2018/19.  So, the fund balance has decreased $1.3MM this year, and is projected to decrease another $1.8MM in next.  Obviously, that is not sustainable.  (The TSD chart showing this is at 34:40 of the workshop video).

The take home point is that the ending fund balance has gone from:

                2017/18                                $9.4MM

                2018/19                                $8.1MM

                2019/20(projected)            $6.3MM

The fact that TSD is approving a budget that projects a “loss” of $1.8MM is concerning.  That being said, getting the budget to balance in 2018/19 would have required some pretty drastic cuts (likely significant staff reductions) and that is a step TSD was not willing to take.  Instead, TSD is banking on the figuring out a way to right the ship over the next 12 months and get to a balanced budget. 

Candidly, TSD does not have any alternative.  Like almost every public agency, TSD maintains a reserve account that is essentially untouchable absent extraordinary circumstances.  TSD is projecting that reserve account will dip to $6MM by the end of the 2019/20 school year.  I believe most financial auditors and analysts would take the position that such a small reserve is not ideal, and possibly ill advised.  For reference, TSD maintained a reserve account of at least $10MM over most of the last 5 or 6 years.  

The bottom line is that TSD has left itself with a pretty narrow margin for error, or unexpected negative financial events.  TSD must hope things go smoothly this year, and then find a way to bridge the $1.8MM projected deficit.  There is no way TSD can go into the 2020/21 budget with any projected deficit. 

TSD MOVING TO A TRUE BUDGET

TSD has traditionally built about $3MM to $5MM of budgeted expenses(“capacity”) that it never realized.  Such a practice seems fiscally less than forthright to me.  I am not implying it was(or was not) intentionally deceptive, and there is an argument to be made that doing so makes sense.  Those arguments are not persuasive to me though. 

Think of capacity as an optimistic hope you will see a windfall of income, and therefore be able to spend more.  Most of TSD’s income is relatively predictable, as are its expenses.  If TSD knows it will get $85MM in income, it can budget  $85MM in expenses.  However, it is possible TSD might get unexpected income during the budget year.  Maybe a grant comes through, maybe enrollment is higher than expected, etc.   TSD’s practice has been to budget in expenses just in case that unexpected money arrives.  If the money does not come in, then the expenses are also unrealized.

In simple household budgeting terms.  Think about sitting down at the beginning of the year and planning to take a $5000 vacation, so you provide for that expense in your budget.  However, you know that you are only going to take that vacation if you get a raise from your employer. You work hard all year, and the raise never comes, so you end up not taking the trip.  The $5000 expense, although budgeted at the beginning of the year, was never incurred.  So, when you take the $5,000 out of your budget, and “scrub” that expense—knowing you will never take the vacation, you are not actually incurring a loss or reduction(other than your downtrodden spirits). 

Built in capacity caused problems during the negotiations as TSD and TEA battled about whether that income would be received, or the expenses would be realized—each cherry picking the numbers to their advantage.  Here is a blog I did on the disconnect last fall.  

Notably, Jim Brittain inherited the prior budget, and appears to not favor building in much capacity.  In fact, Jim went through the budget and “scrubbed” about $5MM in expenses, which resulted in no true reduction as the expenses were never realized. I did a blog on the scrub which can be found here.   

Jim Brittain and Sean Dotson appear to be on the same page with respect to a true budget moving forward.  TSD specifically stated that it now is going to approve a “true budget,” which, with a few limited exceptions, factors in only actual expenses and income.  This is a little different than the past budgets, which built in potential income and expenses(up to $5MM).  This is a great move as the prior budgets were unrealistic to a significant degree, and the result was TSD and TEA engaging in discord about projections(educated guesses) about unknowns. 

CONCLUSION

The TSD Board is much more engaged with budget issues over the past few months. This has resulted in more informed dialogue and discussion, and the ability to gain a clearer understanding of where the Board members stand.  Also, it appears to me that Superintendent Dotson and Jim Brittain, have changed course in some regards.  While I take issue with some of the decisions(some of which will be discussed in the third part of this series), I am of the opinion the change in course has resulted in more transparency, better discussion, and a more informed community.  

As always, we welcome your feedback.  

2019 Legislative Session–A Little Relief


This is just a short blog highlighting some of the budget impact on TSD with the recent legislative session:

1.Broadens scope of capital fund money.  ESHB 2140 allows districts to use capital funds for “infrastructure improvement and preventative maintenance.”  Districts generally pay for a lot of building maintenance from the general fund.  This change could be used to move some of those maintenance  costs from the general fund to the capital fund, thereby leaving general funds available for other items. Of course, an argument could be made that this practice is beyond the scope of what taxpayers approved.  With TSD needing to pass a levy in 2020, it will be interesting to see how this is handled by TSD.

2.Increases ability to collect voter approved levy funds.  As noted in prior blogs, the McCleary fix limited TSD to collecting $1.50 per $1000 assessed property value, regardless of what the voters approved.  SB 5313 allows districts to collect up to $2.50 per $1000 assessed value.  The levy must be(or have been) approved by the citizens.  TSD voters have approved a levy through the 2020 school year so it can collect the additional funds starting in 2020(no additional money will come in during 2019).  TSD should receive somewhere around $3 million in early 2020, and another $3 million in late 2020.  This is the most impactful change from the 2019 session.  

3. SPED funding.  The legislature acknowledge a shortfall in the SPED(Special Ed) funding and reworked the allocation formula.  TSD will receive around $275,000 more than previously projected.  

4.Hold Harmless.  This was the most disappointing result for TSD.  Hold Harmless provisions essentially corrected some inadequacies based upon funding in prior years.  The legislature set aside about $50 million dollars to be distributed statewide to address some unintended consequences.   The formula is pretty complicated, and calculated by OSPI.   According to OSPI, TSD will get about $284K from the hold harmless funds.  While the $284K will help, the original projections by legislative staff indicated TSD might get somewhere around $2.2 million.  TSD was extremely disappointed, and surprised, that it is only receiving $284K.  Notably, Olympia’s portion will be $3.4 million and North Thurston’s will be $2.8 million.  

The legislative session provided some relief.  However, with a budget that exceeds $80 million, the relief was much less than desired by TSD.  After 3 to 4 years of surpluses where TSD bulked up the savings between $1-2 million a year, TSD has already taken about $4.5 million from its savings account to cover the 2018/19 shortfall.  From the tenor at the most recent board meeting, there was no indication that the additional funds “solved” the budget issues continuously expressed by TSD.  I get the impression that TSD is hoping to limit raiding the savings too much more this year(maybe $1-2 million or so) and get closer to break even during the 2019/20 school year.    

Response to Superintendent Comments About Transfer Students

4/19/19

by Scott Kee

At the March 14, 2019 TSD Board meeting, I spoke about the budgeting impact of transfer students.  A couple blogs on the topic that contain a few of the points I made can be found here and here.         

At the March 28, 2019 meeting, Superintendent John Bash “addressed” some of my comments.  I was puzzled by John’s comments and am frustrated by TSD’s refusal to actually acknowledge basic facts.  Further, the Board members seem reluctant to follow up with questions.  As the comments made by John are now part of the School Board meeting minutes, and public record, I felt compelled to point out the inaccuracies/incompleteness of the comments.   

In this blog, the headline is my comment with which John took issue.   The inserted graphic contains John’s comments.   I stand by each of the comments and offer further explanation.

1.    BRINGING IN MORE STUDENTS INCREASES THE DEFICIT(Scott’s statement at 3/14/2018 meeting). 

The  Superintendent’s assessment that TSD receives about $1.5 million based upon the IDT students is accurate, but only a partial truth.  In reality, educating those students costs far more than the $1.5 million received, thus resulting in a greater deficit.   

As has been routinely voiced by TSD, the state is not providing enough money.  Given the funding model, it actually costs more to educate students than the state provides in funding, which was also outlined in a prior blog.    If you just take the number of students, and divide it by the total budget, TSD budgets about $12,500 per student, while the state is providing about $8500 per student.  I appreciate this analysis is much too simple to be precisely accurate, and the actual cost to educate each student is more likely in the $10,000-$11,000 range after factoring in some other variables.  However, the cost is still significantly more money than TSD is receiving on a per student basis.  Despite that fact, TSD erroneously continues to contend accepting IDT students is a financially prudent decision.  Based on TSD’s own assertions that they do not receive enough money from the state to provide basic education for TSD students, and assuming appropriate staffing levels, the more students TSD has, the greater the deficit. 

TSD has traditionally supplemented the budget with local levy money–which remains constant regardless of the number of students.  TSD does not collect any more local levy money when it accepts IDT students.  In fact, accepting those students results in the local levy money being spread thinner, leaving fewer resources for the resident students.    

I appreciate TSD accepts IDT students for non-financial reasons, which may be a noble course.  However, TSD should stop trying to justify its policy with the erroneous argument that accepting IDT students has a positive impact on the budget.      

The one caveat here is that I am presuming TSD will staff appropriately, and not just accept IDT students so they can be placed into already overcrowded classrooms. I would concede that accepting IDT students is a good financial move if TSD insists on maintaining the same amount staff, independent of enrollment–which in my opinion, seems illogical. 

I appreciate TSD is reluctant to staff down.  However, reducing the number of IDT students, and cutting expenses back to meet actual income, appears to be exactly what TSD needs to do from a budgetary perspective. 

2.    CLASS SIZES ARE BEING INFLATED(Scott’s statement at 3/14/2018 meeting, although I think I said “increased” not inflated).

I am confused by this statement, which appears to contend that class sizes remain constant even with the addition of IDT students.  I really wish there was the opportunity for a back and forth discussion during the Board meetings, or that the Board members would conduct further inquiry when statements like this are made.  

TSD accurately contends managing class sizes is an imperfect science to a significant degree.  TSD must accept all resident students.  However,  TSD controls how many IDT students it accepts.  If TSD opted to do so, TSD could conduct a pretty precise count of resident students, which is really not accurate until early to mid-summer, and then opt to decide how many IDT students are accepted.  Instead, TSD’s practice is to make IDT determinations first, and then adjust to the resident student enrollment. 

In any event, class sizes increase with IDT students.  Some schools, THS in particular, have not managed this well. This has resulted in significant overcrowding in some grades,  for example, Seniors and Freshman at THS and Sophomores at BHHS have many core classes above impact numbers.  See Tami’s class size blog for details.  

The result is undeniable.  Some schools, especially THS, elect to accept too many IDT students which results is classrooms well beyond capacity.  I am disappointed the Board members have not pressed the Superintendent, or the principals, for details regarding why schools, especially THS, consistently accept IDT students at a rate far greater than any other school in the County, resulting in consistently overcrowded classes.  

3.    WHY ARE YOU ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS SO EARLY(Scott’s statement at 3/14/2018 meeting).

TSD RESPONSE

My contention was that TSD should wait, likely until at least June, to accept IDT students, and, pursuant to its own policy, should use capacity as the determining factor.   

TSD’s own 3141P policy dictates space is the primary consideration in determining whether or not to accept IDT students.   

TSD’s response has been that IDT students families need to plan.  I appreciate advance planning is desired.  However, in my view, providing additional planning time to IDT families at the expense of providing the best educational environment for residents students, runs contrary to where TSD should keep its focus.  Affording planning time to IDT families has resulted in resident students routinely being in overcrowded classes, and, in some instances, not having desks to sit in and/or commuting to other schools to find available space in the desired classes.  TSD may contend this was caused by unexpected summer enrollment.  Not to pick on THS too much, but the current Freshman class is a prime example. 

There are 285 students enrolled in Freshman Health, a class every Freshman is required to take.   TSD sets the maximum enrollment in Freshman Health at 27 students per class.  There are 243 available spots(9 classes) in Freshman Health, but THS enrolled 285 students in those 9 classes.  Every Health call is at or over impact.  I am confident that TSD accepted more than 42 Freshman IDT students(that is  about 14% and about 16% of students at TSD are IDT students).  Why wouldn’t TSD wait to see how many resident students will be enrolled in Freshman Health, leaving a reasonable buffer for move ins(maybe a dozen or so spots), before it even considers allow IDT students to enroll?  TSD’s response was that “IDT families need time to plan.” 

Once again, nobody is saying we should not accept IDT students.  However, with a few limited exceptions, and consistent with TSD’s own policy, they should only be accepted if there is space.  285 students filling 243 spots is indicative of TSD not having enough space.    An IDT family’s need to plan should be secondary to forcing resident students into overcrowded classrooms. 

4.   OUT OF DISTRICT FAMILIES ARE NOT PAYING LEVY DOLLARS(Scott’s statement at 3/14/2018 meeting).

TSD RESPONSE

TSD concedes it receives no local levy money as a result of accepting IDT students, and instead tries to minimize the effect. 

TSD receives around $8 million a year in levy funds.  That is about 10% of the budget, and a pretty large sum.  That number does not increase or decrease with enrollment.    

The  reference to Running Start is also illogical as TSD still receives the same amount of levy money, regardless of how many students are enrolled in Running Start.  TSD does lose out on state funding as a result of running start students.  Arguing that the Running Start program and local levy funds are unrelated and do not affect each other is inaccurate.  

TSD ignores the fact that accepting IDT student actually dilutes the impact of the levy money is.  TSD has roughly $8 million to spread around whether it has 4000 students or 7000 students.  In fact, I would make the contention that, if staffed appropriately(enough teachers to educate full, but not overcrowded, classrooms) the levy money might just fill the current deficit in the state funding model.  The levy money goes farther with fewer students–whether IDT or resident.  The difference is that TSD must educate resident students, and chooses to accept IDT students at a far greater pace than any other district in the county.   

5.    SEVERAL K-5 CLASSES ARE AT OR ABOVE IMPACT(Scott’s statement at 3/14/2018 meeting).

“Very few” is subjective.  However, based upon the most recent public records request, 21% of the K-5 classes in TSD are at, or over, impact numbers.  I would contend 21% is a significant amount.  Of that 21% there are 5 of the 47 classes with 3 or more students over impact.  I am not sure why this he considers this not significant, because the TEA contract, Article 37.D.2, specifically states once the class is over impact a paraprofessional will be added, and the teacher can elect to take impact pay in lieu of having a paraprofessional.  No amount over impact is mentioned and therefore, it is solely up to the teacher to elect which option they prefer, regardless of how many students over impact are enrolled.  Controlling enrollment is different at the elementary school level as the number of students for each grade is less than at the high school level.  Most elementary schools have 3-4 classes at each grade level(70-100 kids), while high school enrollment per grade is in the 200-280 student range.  Getting 3-4 move ins over a summer could easily result in a class or two being at impact at the elementary school level.  The number of students at the high school level is a little different and there is more wiggle room.  This potential for students moving in over the summer is a great example of why we should wait to approve the ITD students until later in the year, minimizing the likelihood of classrooms over impact.

The point being, I would take issue with any contention that “very few” K-5 classes are more than the current contract size.  

6.  TSD SHOULD RECONSIDER THE TRANSFER POLICY(Scott’s statement at 3/14/2018 meeting).

TSD RESPONSE

I agree it would be unfair, and unwise, to not give proper notice of a policy change.  However, TSD could follow its current policy.  I would suggest TSD should follow procedures consistent with its own policy, something that is not currently occurring. 

THS and BHHS commenced accepting applications on January 22, 2019.   TSD’s policy is that IDT applicants will be notified within 45 days of submitting an application. 

Applications submitted by the end of January, 2019 would have required a response by March 15, 2019.  Notably, North Thurston School District did not even start accepting applications for IDT students until March 4, 2019.  I spent a while on the Olympia School District site and could not find the Transfer request form or date which applications are accepted.  

Regardless, 3141P requires TSD to publish a list of available spots on its website.   The directive is to ensure ample space for resident students.  As noted above, TSD has not ensured ample space for resident students.  Notably, as of the writing of this blog, TSD has yet to publish a list of available spots for the middle and high schools.  Accordingly, TSD appears to be making IDT determinations without the publication of the requisite notice.      

In lieu of publishing any notice, TSD recently put a blanket statement on its website regarding transfers: 

apture

TSD changing its policy mid year would not be appropriate.  On the other hand, TSD not following its own policy, especially when the result is overcrowded classrooms, is also not appropriate.  

TSD should hold off on admitting IDT students until such time as it can assure resident students that there will be sufficient space in classrooms.  If TSD continues with current practices, TSD would need to add more teachers and classes in several of the grades where overcrowding is evident.  This would increase the expenses at a rate higher than the increase in funds from the state (by TSD’s own claims of inadequate funding).  This would then require more cuts to other areas, which in my opinion is not in the best interest of TSD students.  

CONCLUSION


I am certainly not calling for TSD to stop accepting any IDT students.  TSD is a great place to attend school, and TSD should welcome IDT students provided doing so does not negatively impact the experience of TSD’s resident students, to which TSD owes a primary obligation.  

TSD accepts transfer students at a much higher rate than its peers.  The number of IDT students coming into TSD negatively impacts the budget and results in overcrowded classrooms.  TSD should start following its own policy, accepting IDT students only if space is available and doing so does not negatively impact the budget.   

As always, we welcome comments, suggestions or guest blogs.  scottkee@citizensfortumwaterschools.com

High School Class Size Investigated 2018/19.

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

A previous blog discussed the class size in TSD elementary schools. For that information click here.  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”.  

A recent public records request revealed that most of the high school classes set 27 as the maximum number of students in a classroom, even though that number is frequently exceeded. 

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).

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 size of English classes at both high schools:

THS clearly has many more Freshman than it has room for in the English classes, while BHHS is well under the threshold.  The average Freshman English class size at BHHS sits at 25.6, and at THS it is 28.1.  The Freshman Honors English classes have a more significant difference between the schools.  BHHS does not have any Freshman Honors English classes over 27, with an average class size of 23.  In contrast,  every Freshman Honors English class at THS is over 27, and 50% have more than 30 students, for an average of 30.3 students per class.   

BHHS clearly has more Sophomores than it has room for in English classes, while THS is just under the threshold.  70% of the Sophomore English classes at BHHS are over 27, with an average of 27.9 students.  The Sophomore Honors English classes average 23.8 students.  BHHS clearly has more Sophomores than it has room for in English classes. Although THS is not over the 27 threshold for Sophomore and Junior English classes, THS is approaching the threshold in both Sophomore Honors English(26.3) and Junior English(26.5).  

Notably, 50% of the Senior English classes at THS have more than 27 students and 25% have more than 30 with an average of 28.5 students.  

The same approach with the math classes is as follows:

With Math classes, both schools seem to be similar until you look at the more advanced math classes.  For instance, at both BHHS and THS the Accelerated Math III is significantly overloaded, with both schools having an average class size over 30.  However, Pre-Calculus and Calculus classes at THS (31.5) are significantly more overloaded than similar classes at BHHS(15.8).   Unlike English classes, the students not generally segregated by grade.  It is clear that the early Integrated Math classes have much lower class sizes,  while the more advanced classes are more likely to be overloaded, and in some cases do not have enough desks in the classroom for the students.  For instance, some students in the THS Calculus class to travel to BHHS since THS is so overloaded.  

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

With Social Studies classes, the data seems to follow the English data for both BHHS and THS.  Meaning, the courses for each grade are overloaded if the English classes for that grade are overloaded.  

For example, at BHHS 40% of the World History classes(typically taken by Sophomores), are over the 27 students threshold.  As stated earlier, the Sophomore English classes at BHHS are overloaded. This shows there are more Sophomore students at BHHS than class spots available in both English and Social Studies.

In comparison, THS has 56% of Social Studies Classes typically taken by Seniors over the 27 threshold.  Therefore it can be concluded, like English classes, there are more Seniors at THS than class spots available in Social Study classes.

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 Accelerated Physical Science at THS had 80% of classes over 27 and an average of 27.1 students.  21% of Physical Science classes at BHHS are over the 27 student threshold, with an average of 24.4 students.  Further, 11% of the Biology classes at BHHS are over 27, with an average of 23.1 students.  Physical Science is typically a Freshman course, therefore, like Freshman English classes, there are more Freshman at THS than spots available in the Accelerated Physical Science classes.

From the data above it is clear there are more Freshman and Seniors at THS than spots available in most of the core classes.  Similarly, there are more Sophomores than spots available at BHHS in the core classed.  

In looking at other classes typically taken by Freshman and Seniors there is a clear overcrowding of these particular classes.

This conclusion is highlighted when looking at the Health classes at THS(which are typically taken by Freshman):

BHHS has 33% of Health classes over 27 students and 13% over 30 students with an average of 27.1 students per class.  In contrast, THS has 90% of its Health classes over 27 students, and 50% over 30 students, with an average of 31.2 students per class.  Both schools have more students, likely Freshman, than they have spots in Health. 

Another class typically taken by Freshman at THS is the Tech Theater.  THS has 4 Tech Theater Classes, all of which are  over 27 students, with an average of 31.6 students per class.  

BHHS also has 50% of Spanish I classes over the 27 students with an average of 26 students per class.  BHHS has 67% of Spanish II classes over the 27 student threshold with an average of 27.5 students per class. 

The variables that effect overcrowding are the number of teachers and the number of students, both of which TSD controls. 

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 is not the current practice.  Letting the transfer students in before the spaces available have been determined, does not make sense, unless TSD decides to add more classes/teachers. The other option is to allow less Inter-district students to attend THS and BHHS.  

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.  It would appear that either a misappropriation of classes/teachers has occurred or a miscalculation on the number of students attending the high schools. 

The miscalculation is evident with the Freshman and Senior classes at TSD and Sophomore class at BHHS.

For example THS has several typically Freshman classes that are overloaded, as well as several typically Senior classes overloaded.  BHHS seems to have areas of overcrowding generally in the Sophomore classes.  Most of the classes at each schools are not overcrowded, but the core classes are typically the classes that are over crowded.  At BHHS, 84% of the over crowed classes are core classes.  At THS, 70% of the over crowed classes are core classes.  Most of the remaining classes over the threshold at THS are classes typically taken by Freshman students.  TSD needs to either add more teachers/classes or lower the number of students if TSD wants to keep classes below the agreed upon threshold. 

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