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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Greeley District 6 Performance Check

When community issues start bristling with perceptions rather than factual data I have always been convinced the best way for the public to perpetuate a good outcome for all parties is to become educated on the facts. It makes it less easy for either side to manipulate public emotional opinion for their gain. Note the use of the word "facts" rather than information. Information in the age of the Internet has become lost to a sea of half-rowed boats. Then again my nickname may be Pollyanna Jane but I figure it is worth a try to link to the facts.

I started doing some research on the NCES site. I couldn't find this link on the local District 6 website. It would be nice, if it is not there, to include it.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education.

I am also beginning to lament not taking my statistical analysis class more seriously so criticism of my analysis here is certainly welcomed and can only add to the debate.

Interestingly I found a few tables on teacher salaries and peer parities for the area but the most recent data set is for 05-06. A lot can happen in three years when the District tends to renegotiate almost every year.

You can skip reading this paragraph unless you want to recreate the same data chart or want to comment on potential comparison errors. I chose the 150 miles radius from zip 80631 for my comparison under the peer tools menu. I went through the advanced search information and simply entered Colorado and the zip 80631. It also helps to know that District Six is classified as MSA-Central City and a Regular School District. Also, Greeley's NCES District ID:0804410. Several of these labels are selections at the bottom to help define the comparisons. I left all other comparative criteria blank. I am sure the comparisons the Union and District have agreed upon are much more tightly controlled for various financial factors. How comparisons are selected can give huge advantage to one party or the other. This may even be why mediators are called in--to do this selection if there is any question on the established process. Oranges need to be compared to oranges not tangerines. There were 10 districts automatically selected for the comparison averages below from my search--including Greeley District 6.

For my own information I am particularly interested in the comparison between dollars for admin to dollars for teachers. The percentages below are what came up. Remember data is for the 2005-06 school year. I have heard that teachers have been negatively hit the last two sessions and also that the Greeley Board earned an award from the State last year for cleaning up a deplorable situation. Confirmation on these would be welcomed.

Peer Averages
Instruc. Expend. 56%
Student & Staff Support 11%
Admin 17%
Food Service, Operations, & Other 16%

Greeley's individual data returns
Peer Averages
Instruc. Expend. 60%
Student & Staff Support 12%
Admin 11%
Food Service, Operations, & Other 17%

These are the possibilities I see in the statistical relationships (remember stats aren't people but they can point the focus to appropriate areas to begin the search for remedies).

First off Greeley is spending more on teachers and less on administrative salaries. It is a probability that the decrease in administration spending results in the slight uptick in Student & Staff Support. I am not interested in the 4th category.

The student teacher ratio returned is 17.1 for Greeley compared to the average 17.0. Hence teachers are pretty close here. There is an average of 1 teacher for every 17 students in the District. This stat however says nothing about the effective distribution of teachers or their workload. We know that classes have 30 or more children in them frequently. Special education courses (remedial and gifted) may be a part of that skew.

However it should be noted that on the profile school district data I looked up on the same site it says 16.8 students per instructor. I do not know why this discrepancy would exist for the same district on the same site unless the comparisons I pulled up for expenditures does not have pre-kindergarten included. *I'd like to measure Greeley without the PK data simply because I think the abundant religious based nonprofits in the area skew the demand for services but I couldn't get the data unless I included it.

I think it would be rather common to conclude the teachers are already near parity and the administration under-paid but it is never that easy. First of all I didn't find any raw data on a ratio for administrators per student--we have just the percentage. So the workload of admin and exactly what is going into the comparison statistics on admin are reported differently from the profile stuff. I could try to come up with a stat but the risk of error would be huge unless I put a whole lot of time into sorting it out--so I won't go there. Going back to the produced statistics in the comparison, this could mean fewer administrators are being paid larger salaries or administrators in general are paid less.

For me, I'll address this more at the end, the question is what is the Admin workload and if there are lesser administrators is this more effective or less. The answer lies in the quality of personnel not the abundance. Also the job duty distribution has an effect. Considering the problems in the past the latter conclusions have some clout. Performance should be closely examined.

As for teachers, depending on what the performance issues are locally, they are above state parity and just below national parity if I read it correctly (and I am sure someone will nail me if I got that wrong). Greeley should be competitive in the labor market considering these stats. Of course that doesn't take into consideration the current trend in rise of cost of living and the cost-of-living increases they have been denied. Workload, due to regulations, or other budgetary cuts may have increased too.

My quick assumption is that it is likely, but I do not have that information, the teachers have fallen behind on parity issues during the last three years and are now facing another cut next year.

The question unanswered is what has happened to management and admin salaries in the meantime. If faced with incredibly poor performance (depending on the issues cited), if I were sitting on that Board of Directors, I'd have been pumping money into improving the quality of administration. What price did that cost the district?

Over all I see a three-fold big picture issues. One is "Is the Greeley area attractive for teachers to make their homes in and raise their families here. Are their pay standards high enough to sustain the quality and status expected for teachers to be role models in the community." Secondly, "Is management failing to give enough support to teachers and if so is it due to inadequate distribution of resources--what is the quality of management decline for minimizing admin dollars." Third, "Are teachers being rewarded for quality performance and held accountable for poor performance. Are performance problems based on lack of support from management, failure to successfully screen, plan, and to acquire funding for high quality personnel." The last of the third issues is a long term strategic visioning problem (directly the responsibility of the Board of Directors).

In my view, as a board member, I'd go looking at the qualifications of teachers and management, in particular, review the human resources policies and hiring procedures independently without any subjective involvement from the district superintendent.

Of course this will not make the negotiations go any smoother at all. Pointing fingers at everyone just indicates the system is broken and we already know that.

My personal point is I think the public at large needs to be held accountable for the broken system because they are the check and balance on any democratic system. Negotiations aren't going to remedy the situation unless the Board of Directors have a better long term plan or are given more funds to work with (if proven they are effectively using the resources they have currently).

The Board of Directors are elected locally. Do they have the skill set needed? Are they puppets for an overzealous administrator? Local and State politicians often play on public perceptions about education to get re-elected on supporting education but then abandon that support when policy and legislation is written. The Jellyfish always rise to the top when times are good. Nationally same thing--we elect those who budget for and structure the public system.

Personally I think that teachers should be paid on the value they produce rather than simple parity and experience. Unfortunately I think it is easy for the public just to calculate value as the need of the moment rather than the future. Senior citizens for example may be looking forward to living on a fixed income in the future and want to control tax increases or are shocked at the rising price tag on education but our children are looking forward to a promising future and if the "whole" is not well educated then we have already sunk the kids' ship before it leaves port. America's competitive advantage has always been fueled by its level of organization and education. You have to have the infrastructure before you can have the performance. Education is the best investment you can make.

I'd be asking my local teachers union what their expenditures of effort are all about when local, state, and federal education legislation comes up. Are they really stepping up to bat?

Enough of the soapbox.

Here is another great site for facts. These are figures on the comparison internationally.

EDUCATION INDICATORS: An International Perspective / Indicator 40
EDUCATION INDICATORS: An International Perspective

Indicator 40: Teacher Salaries

Teacher salaries are a measure of teachers' standard of living and reflect what society is willing to pay for the direct work of education. Expressed in units of a common currency, they reflect the cost of teachers in an absolute sense, irrespective of a nation's wealth and the resources it can devote to teaching.* Teacher salaries relative to GDP per capita allow for comparisons among countries with wide income disparities. A simple index is created by dividing a teacher salary figure by a country's GDP per capita and multiplying by 100. If the index equals 100, a teacher is paid the same as the per capita GDP. Expressed in this manner, the indicator examines what each country spends on its teachers relative to its ability to pay for their services. For example, a poor country with lower teacher salaries than those of other nations may actually be devoting a larger share of its available resources to teachers than wealthier countries.

Sidebar: Teacher salaries are not a clear-cut marker of teacher compensation /*

* At both starting and maximum salary levels, primary and lower secondary school teachers in the United States had among the highest average salaries of all countries for which data were available when salaries were viewed in absolute terms (in constant U.S. dollars). To illustrate, the 1992 average salary of the primary school teachers at the maximum salary level was higher in the United States than it was in all of the countries reported except Japan, Austria, and Portugal. At the lower secondary level, the starting salaries of U.S. teachers were among the highest in absolute terms, at $21,787, along with those of teachers from Spain ($22,964) and Germany ($27,444).

* However, U.S. primary and lower secondary school teachers did not fare as well when the salary was viewed relative to GDP per capita. All of the G-7 countries with available data equaled or exceeded the United States on this measure (at both starting and maximum salary levels), as did most of the remaining countries.

* The ratio of teacher salary to per capita GDP varied considerably across the countries presented. To illustrate, the ratio of starting salary for primary school teachers to per capita GDP ranged from 84 in Sweden to 188 in Turkey.

*The statement is accurate as long as currencies are converted using purchasing power parity (PPP) rates rather than market exchange rates. PPP rates isolate the current, relative domestic purchasing powers of different currencies and are the rates used to convert the figures presented here.

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