Where is the Class Size Crisis?

The Robbinsdale School District knows five words; more money, lower class sizes. Unfortunately for struggling taxpayers, ISD 281 got their money — but their own numbers question whether the school board’s “lower class sizes crisis” was really the truth.

If you go to ISD’s website and look under “delivering referendum promises,” they have a chart as to what class sizes were, and what class sizes would have been if the referendum had failed. They have two graphs. One district-wide graph claims that Grade 5 elementary schools averaged 28,2 kids per class in the 07-08 school year. If the referendum had failed, the graph shows that average class sizes would not have gone up at all! Since the referendum passed, class sizes will now average 25.4 students! In other words 2.8 kids a class was a crisis, and that if the referendum failed, class sizes would not have increased by as much as one student.

In another graph, the district says class sizes averaged 31.3 per class in the 07-08 school year for “high-school core classes.” If the referendum failed, class sizes would be 33.3, but since it passed it will now be 29. Of course, average class size for “core classes” is not the be all and end all. We wonder what the numbers are for everything else. Does this sound like a crisis to anyone out there? The district also has projections that enrollment will continue to slowly decline over the next ten years! Wouldn’t that eventually reduce class sizes? And, before anyone out there tells 281 Exposed that their kid has 40 or 50 kids in a class, please check out the district’s website. We are using their own numbers. One also has to wonder how ISD 281 can claim there is a class size crisis while at the same time 13% of our students don’t live in the district. If our classes are really overcrowded, why are we letting so many kids from outside the district in? Anyone in need of revenue out there?

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6 Responses to “Where is the Class Size Crisis?”

  1. give2attain Says:

    Avg Class Sizes

    I am not sure why this topic showed up again, I think most people agree that keeping class sizes manageable is important and a good use of school funds. (ie K-2: ~22, 3-5: ~26, 6-8: ~30, HS: ~34) So I am not sure if it will carry much weight with the general public. (besides it is not waste, see below)

    Please note that the numbers you reference are averages. The reality is that the actual class sizes can vary plus or minus ~20% from this. (ie 5th: ~20 to ~30) This will depend on student mix, kids vs number of classes at school, class type, etc) Before the levy and avg class size reduction, the high class sizes started to exceed the above mentioned rough “acceptable” numbers and people got worried.

    As for open enrollment, hopefully those children bring in more funding than they cost on average to teach. (ie books, teachers, etc) Then the extra money can be applied to the district’s fixed costs. (ie buildings, admin, heat, etc) Thereby paying a portion of RAS expense with state funds rather than levy funds. If they cost more than they bring in, then you are correct that there is a problem…

    If you really want to find the waste in the district, my advice is to list what you expect from the district and schools. (ie value added activities) Then list what is being provided or done by the district. (ie cost drivers) Finally, circle all the cost drivers that are not value added and start publicizing them. (ie waste) My personal waste thoughts as you may have read are “free cross district transportation”, “free Spanish immersion”, “maintaining low enrollment specialty or not needed for typical post-HS education/jobs classes”, “keeping both AP and IB”, “keeping ESC and bus garage in a retail space”, “turning down the PLE/Beacon Academy lease/sale funding”, etc.

    A favorite quote of mine: “There is nothing quite so useless, as doing with great efficiency something that should not be done at all.” (Drucker)

    Lean Manufacturing and Waste

  2. give2attain Says:

    I forgot my one disclaimer… Just like beauty, “Value Added” and “Waste” is in the eye of the beholder. My question is how do we come to a RAS community “Common Definition of Value Added” that make 80% of the citizens happy? Leaving the 20% to pay for the “extras” they desire….

    With that in mind:
    -What does a good solid school district need to provide in these modern times? (ie without relying on or catering to the niches…)
    – What knowledge, skills, talents, experiences, etc do the kids need during those 13 years to be responsible and capable adults and citizens?
    – Who is responsible for the troubled children that are not prepared to learn due to their family circumstances ? (ie Parents, Community, School, etc)

  3. 09dj Says:

    I really do hate the class size percentages being thrown about. The problem with stats is that you can twist them in the wind to any way shape or form that best serves your argument.

    One of the problems with class size calculations is the state reporting is done across all classrooms as cumulative number. So if I have a class six classes and in one of those classes I have 5 kids and others have 35 I get to report a sub-30 number for class sizes whereas we know that in reality that number is about as fake as it comes. If you want to see some scary stuff, ask the district for class sizes by subject area – there you will find some numbers that will be disturbing.

    As give mentions – it’s time to sit down and really look at where money could be saved with some concrete proposals. It’s time to get serious because it is obvious that we have some serious questions coming soon.

    DJ

  4. pooka2dot0 Says:

    Why is it that I can’t find much on the web about 281 cutting over 50 teachers recently?? When they lobbied for the referendum, the board indicated that they would use the money for hiring more art and music teachers among other things. They convinced the union, the teachers, the administrations and the community that we would have more teachers, not less. So far, they hired maybe 2 art teachers and CUT over 50 others in the district.

    I’m a taxpayer in this district and I feel lied to. It sure would be interesting to know where the money actually went.

  5. 09dj Says:

    It’s right here:

    http://www.rdale.org/modules/groups/homepagefiles/cms/494491/File/Just%20the%20Facts/JTF%20Hiring%20and%20Layoffs.pdf?sessionid=271b723a6e58b0649f1d1fe396014a9a

    Having a wife as a teacher in the district I’m pretty familiar with the process. (The ten years working there helps we well.) They have to follow the process agreed upon by the district/union. As such, those new jobs don’t exist until July 1st. Which means that any probationary teacher (less than 3 years) will get cut so that those with seniority at the three schools closed can move around and get a job.

    Keep in mind that many of those 50 jobs cut will actually still be there because it is nearly a one-to-one relationship for closed schools. For example at SMS, there are about 67 teachers. Almost every single one of them is moving to RMS due to new jobs created there (new jobs not included in the new 29 jobs created by the referendum). Same for the staffs of SHE and PLE as new jobs get created in each of the elementary positions.

    It is simply the language of the contract. Once the settling finishes (pre-pool – or those teachers who lost their jobs due to school closing is finished – about April 15th), then they will go into the normal pool process. The pool process consists of two separate opportunities for teachers to move buildings. So after settling occurs, Pool One starts, a list of available jobs will be posted internally (not including the new 29 jobs). All existing staff with jobs can then submit a request to move to any of those open jobs. They interview and principals can accept/reject.

    Once Pool 1 is done – that creates a bunch of jobs again from those who moved and any available positions. Another list and Pool 2 starts. Everyone on the list are still tenured teachers. So they are guaranteed jobs. So they apply and get placed. Principles have less ability to reject due to this. For example, if there is one social studies teacher who is stranded still and one social studies position at CHS, the jobs it there’s. Not much negotiation on that one.

    Once pool2 is closed. Then the district puts together a list of jobs that still remain + the new ones and they get posted to the web site. Then those teachers who were laid off + the public get a chance to interview and get a job. Those laid off are not-guaranteed jobs in the district but history tells us that they have a better chance to get hired because they are a known-quantity.

    So to Pooka2Dot0 – the money is there to hire people on July 1. Confusing yes. The shock and horror should be reserved after the pool process. If the district gets done with the pool process and there are no jobs – then we have something to talk about.

    DJ

    p.s. The other thing that is impossible to know in all of this is that a teacher can take up to a 5 year leave from the district and still retain their tenure. So what we will never know is how many teachers are wondering the streets who could just jump back into the pool process at any moments notice.

  6. give2attain Says:

    DJ,
    Excellent summary of a very complicated process. Sometime you will need to blog your thoughts on how the relationship and trust between Public Schools/communities and the employees got to the low point that these rules and procedures were deemed necessary and worthwhile.

    I am mostly against unions because I feel they protect questionable performers, however I support the following quote. “A company with a union probably deserved it.” Thanks

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