Monday, November 30, 2015

Niche.com K-12 Rankings
Fun with Ranking Data!!

Niche.com has released their 2016 school grades and rankings.  The formulas utilized to create the grades/rankings are different in that the rankings take into account more than standardized test scores or number of Advanced Placement classes; diversity of the school population is recognized and also a factor in rankings calculations.

Definition of diversity:   the inclusion of different types of people (as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization.  

The rankings also include parent/student feedback as part of their ranking methodology.  As you may recall, the Georgia Board of Education has now included a parent/guardian survey as part of the CCRPI rankings: https://www.gadoe.org/External-Affairs-and-Policy/Policy/Pages/School-Climate.aspxIt is important for all parents/guardians to take the time to complete the survey as lack of participation in the survey can negatively impact a school's CCRPI rating. 

Click the following link to access the GADOE School Climate Survey: http://apps.gadoe.org/schoolclimate/parents.nsf/Survey.xsp.  The survey closes in February 26, 2016.

From Niche.com:

Niche ranks more than 100,000 public and private schools and districts based on dozens of statistics and 27 million opinions from 300,000 students and parents. Click the following link for further information:  https://k12.niche.com/rankings/methodology/

"Our rankings are different, and for good reason. We believe that the quality of a school or district should be measured, at least in part, by the parents and students who actually go there. They should also be measured by hard data and across a number of key factors so that no one factor dominates a ranking. Most importantly, they should be measured by their results. The most unique thing about our rankings is that they incorporate student outcomes.

While many people (myself included) do not find school rankings particularly useful (except for real estate agents - especially those attempting to insert themselves in local school redistricting discussions), I thought it would be a fun exercise to see how they rank the Dunwoody cluster schools. The FTE data cited in the rankings is from the October 2013 FTE count, although many of the ratings/reviews are more recent.  The data displayed below are rankings within the State of Georgia public schools.  You can also view the data at a metro and national level: https://k12.niche.com/rankings/.  In order to view the actual components that make up each rating, simply click on the actually rating category (i.e. "Best Public High School) for each school.  For example:  Dunwoody HS:  https://k12.niche.com/dunwoody-high-school-dunwoody-ga/rankings/#state.

Click on the name of each school and you will be directed to that schools "ranking" page.

School
Overall Niche Grade
Best Public High School Rank
College Readiness Rank 
Best Academics Rank
Best Administration Rank
Best Extracurriculars Rank
Best Facilities Rank
Best   Food Rank
Best High Schools to Teach Rank
Best High School Sports Rank
Best Teachers Rank
Most Diverse Rank
Largest Public High Schools Rank
Safest Schools Rank
A-
36
21
25
58
19
276
263
80
123
40
23
114
263


School
Overall Niche Grade
State Rank 
Most Diverse  Rank
Best Teachers Rank
Best      Academics  Rank
B+
238
105
195
272

School
Overall Niche Grade
State Rank 
Most Diverse Rank 
Best Teachers  Rank
Best      Academics      Rank
   Austin Elementary
 A-
581
978
301
406
   Chesnut Charter Elementary
A-
552
216
378
650
   Dunwoody Elementary
A-
602
502
784
422
   Hightower Elementary
B+
904
997
640
902
   Kingsley Charter Elementary
A-
614
161
443
797
   Vanderlyn Elementary
A-
544
799
282
449

I have created an Excel spreadsheet with all DeKalb County Schools rankings/grades.  Click on the following link to view the data: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bw_Hnco-5lveT0Y0TTlHV1JUQnc/view?usp=sharing

A look at the rankings/grades of some of the local public schools which students living in Dunwoody attend:

School
Overall Niche Grade
Best Public High School Rank
College Readiness Rank 
Best Academics Rank
Best Administration Rank
Best Extracurriculars Rank
Best Facilities Rank
Best      Food Rank
Best High Schools to Teach Rank
Best High School Sports Rank
Best Teachers Rank
Most Diverse Rank
Largest Public High Schools Rank
Safest Schools Rank
A
20
6
20
102
47
85
197
28
107
6
6
169
215
B-
247
266
224
192
283
287
276
166
319
172
196
194
137
   North Springs Charter
B+
95
35
53
208
90
316
336
196
228
115
41
102
324
   Riverwood International Charter 
A-
62
25
35
88
77
271
286
171
134
82
20
92
274

Also, a look at the rankings/grades of some of the local private schools.  The data collected for private schools is a bit different from the data collected for public schools, but you can look up the schools for further information.

Area Private Schools
Overall Niche Grade
Enrollment
Type of Private School
B+
1,247 (PK,K-12)
Episcopal
A-
1,079 (7th-12th)
Catholic
C+
932 (PK,K-12)
Presbyterian
B+
1,116 (9th - 12th)
Catholic
   Wesleyan
A-
1,135 (K-12)
 Inter/Non-denominational
 
It is interesting to note 4 of the of the Top 5 ranked School Districts in Georgia, are small school districts:
 
School District
Niche.Com Grade
October, 2015 FTE
Number of Schools
Buford City Schools
A+
4,330
4
Decatur City Schools
A+
4,858
7
Oconee County Schools
A+
7,271
10
Calhoun City Schools
A 
4,093
4
Forsyth County Schools
A
44,286
36

 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Stan Jester: DeKalb Schools To Send Letter of Intent
for Strategic Waiver School System


Per District 1 DeKalb Schools Board of Education Representative Stan Jester:

On December 7, the administration will request the board send a letter of intent to the GaDOE to become a Strategic Waiver School System (SWSS).

The link to Stan's post below gives a brief summary of the various options and links to a couple more presentations that go into more depth.


http://factchecker.stanjester.com/2015/11/5680/

A point to be made from Dr. Green's post on Stan's blog:

"As a final note, what is also unique in this approach is that the opportunity for a school or clusters to collaborate and petition for charter status is still available should the District become a Strategic Waiver School System."

P.S. I know very little about the SWSS model, other than Gwinnett County Schools have operated this model for many years.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Guest Post: "A Case for Redistricting"

By Kirk Lunde..This is a follow up to my previous post proposing a System of Charter Clusters.  Most of what is written below are the ideas and suggestions of others who have shared them with me. One person who needs to be thanked is Marshall Orson.


DeKalb County Schools new Superintendent, Dr. Green, has a Bambinelli’s sized serving of spaghetti on his “plate” and working through it is going to create a legacy he will take with him into retirement. I believe he is the right man, in the right place, at the right time.

The district needs to make a decision regarding which flexibility option it will use going forward. There is also a school capacity crisis in the Cross Keys cluster which needs to be addressed. Additionally, the district is preparing an eSPLOST  project list for the BOE to vote on in May or June. If approved, citizens will vote on it next November. eSPLOST is the mechanism DCSD uses to pay for capital programs. The district has dubbed the preparation of the project list Building S.P.A.C.E.S.

In my perfect world, DCSD would take a map of the county and start over. Just change almost everything. The BOE districts are set by the legislature, so leave them in place and build from there. Currently, there are seven BOE districts and five regions. Align them. Make seven regions, each with one, or two, regional superintendents. This will reduce the span of control and provide more support to the principals.

All right, now we have seven regions and a System of Charter Clusters. Before we get any farther along, we need to address the capacity crisis in the Cross Keys cluster. DeKalb teacher and blogger, Rebekah Cohen Morris, wrote a great post about how to address this. She has the right idea. However, the plan she proposes does not take into account the other schools in DeKalb which are also overcrowded. These should be addressed at the same time. To speak plainly: attendance lines need to be changed district-wide.

Yes. I mean the whole county needs to be redistricted. Yes. I remember what happened the last time that was attempted. Yes. I was part of the crowds who wanted to Save Our Schools.

However, this time can be different. This time there is competent leadership in the district. This time, the BOE won’t be looking to line the pockets of their friends and family. This time, a plan can be based on accurate information, not political favors.

Hopefully, this time the DCSD can communicate effectively and control the conversation regarding redistricting. This can be done by recording any committee meetings and posting them on the district’s website. This will allow stakeholders to see the process used to devise a plan and eliminate the appearance of things being decided in secrecy. Every time there is a public meeting, it should be recorded to capture the comments, questions, and ideas. These should also be posted to the district’s website. I believe a constant stream of information before a plan is announced will reduce the resistance to any plan that is put forward. Additionally, some of the documented public input should be included in any proposed redistricting plan. Then, the stakeholders should be given an opportunity to look over any proposed plan before their feedback is sought. The district’s strategy of hiding things before asking for feedback needs to forgotten. At that time, questions need to be answered, not ignored. Again, these meetings should be recorded and made available on the district’s website.

Will there be resistance? Of course there will. DeKalb citizens love their local schools. However, the interests of all the children in DeKalb County would be best served by improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the district.

Currently, less than 65% of the district budget is spent on instruction. A more efficient school district would be able to increase that percentage. A more cost-effective district would make a larger pot of money available from which to draw the instruction percentage out of. Students would benefit in two ways. A more cost-effective school district could spend more on classroom instruction and have more money for other things such as counselors, STEM programs, music programs, and Career Technical & Ag. Education (CTAE).

The district should then present a set of guidelines, or goals, for redistricting. If a school’s request to change the proposed plan doesn’t meet the guidelines, or advance the district goals, the school will need to rethink their their request.

One of the strategic goals the district should work towards is becoming significantly more efficient and cost-effective. Decisions can not be political, they must benefit all of the students in the county by contributing to that goal.

The best way to create efficiency and improve cost-effectiveness is to even the load among clusters. It isn’t equitable that some schools are at less than 75% capacity while others are more than 125% capacity. Redrawing attendance lines can create capacity equity among schools and reduce transportation costs. Another benefit of redistricting would be to reduce the illegal racial segregation found in the Cross Keys cluster. Everyone can agree the district doesn’t need another law suit and if the Cross Keys cluster is not changed, there may be one.

Another goal of the district should be to eliminate trailers without resorting to inflated class sizes.  Rule 160-5-4-.16 (a) 2 states, A plan to replace all temporary educational facilities with permanent educational facilities must be included in the LEA’s local facilities plan. It is to be understood that all needs in a local facilities plan usually cannot be met within the five year life cycle of that plan and that temporary educational facilities may remain at a facility past the expiration of the current local facilities plan.”  The current Local Facilities Plan does not contain a plan to replace any of the trailers. It will take longer than one eSPLOST to achieve this goal, but when you consider DCSD is spending approximately $2 million a year on trailers, this is a goal the district should work towards. That is $2 million a year that can be spent on instruction.

The last time redistricting was seriously discussed, Ramona Tyson was the superintendent. She, and the BOE, were not willing to do what would benefit all the students, or all of the schools. The most vocal (read politically connected) opponents were able to get the proposal altered to meet their demands. There were also changes made because the proposed plan was based on inaccurate information. These things can be avoided by starting with an accurate assessment of the capacities and needs of each school. That is what the Building S.P.A.C.E.S. initiative is supposed to be creating.

My vision of DCSD is one where the resources of the DCSD are used to meet the needs of the students, not satisfy the whims of the administrators and BOE members. These needs vary throughout the county, but are fairly consistent within each cluster. The Cross Keys cluster needs more schools; the McNair cluster needs more curriculum support. I agree with Dr. Green that equity means everyone getting what they need. A system of charter clusters will allow DCSD to work with each cluster to meet its needs.

**We all are aware of the overcrowding issues in the Cross Keys cluster.  Let's compare that to the McNair cluster, which as Kirk indicated needs a lot of support, despite the fact that BOE Rep. Joyce Morley wants to divert the discussion to one of race rather than what can be done to help the McNair cluster.  The McNair cluster has 2,329 available seats.

McNair HS Cluster Clifton ES ** Flat Shoals ES ** Kelley Lake ES Meadowview           ES ** McNair ES** McNair MS McNair HS Subgroup Total
Hispanic 24 6 8 6 21 26 16 107
American Indian 0 0 0 1 0 1 3 5
Asian 0 0 0 2 0 2 2 6
Black 326 605 354 298 837 635 761 3,816
Pacific Islander 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 3
White 10 2 1 4 12 8 7 44
2 or more Races 5 2 6 5 5 1 6 30
Total School Enrollment 365 617 369 316 875 674 795
Total Cluster Enrollment 4,011
2014 Capacity 702 632 484 477 997 1,524 1,524
Capacity (+/-) 337 15 115 161 122 850 729 2,329