Increases vs. Cuts
At the Malverne UFSD budget meeting, the administration presented to the BOE members and two residents in attendance the “instructional” part of the budget. There are approximately 200 line-items, A2010 through A2855, in this part, but only few will fit into this post. The selected line-items deal with test prep, test administration, equipment and supplies cuts, and data collection. There are many more interesting lines in the budget. For example the lines for tutoring, various tuition, instruction, etc., but it’s rather task for a committee.
Achieving the highest score possible on the charts of Washington Post, Newsweek, or The Daily Beast has become the paramount of the current educational model of “not leaving a single child behind in the race to the top score.” In order to increase scores in this hybrid NCLB and RtTT environment, the schools train students how to succeed instead of teaching them how to learn. Many educators predicted this situation before the Common Core got implemented, as testing was already built in the NCLB in 2001. For example, a principal’s welcome letter to parents in September of 2012.
The line-items in the table reflect the cost of preparation for tests. These are line-items I noticed. Most probably, there are more lines dedicated to test prep.
|Code||Account||2014-15 $*||2015-16 $*||$* increase||%|
|1||A2010.400-00||CONTRACTUAL & OTHER||42,000||62,000||20,000||48|
|2||A2110.154.01||REGENTS ASSIST PROGRAM||23,000||50,000||27,000||114|
|3||A2110.154-00||AFTER SCHOOL INSTRUCTION||133,000||175,000||42,000||31|
- The line-item entertains a 3-month test prep contract (January–March).
- The line-item represents salaries for before-, after- school, and Saturday test prep classes.
- The line-item represents salaries for AIS—Academic Intervention Services. The services are supposed to be offered to all students who scored 2 and lower on a state test. Combining the % scoring levels 1 and 2 in last year’s tests (click image to enlarge), will reveal that over 50% MUFSD students would need to enroll in the AIS—despite the costly preparation.
In addition to the costs for preparing students for tests, there are costs associated with administering the tests. The NYS signed up with the PARCC testing consortium. The tests are administered on computers or tablets only. When governors of 20 states initially signed into this deal, it was immediately clear that thousands of students clicking at the same time on a given day would overwhelm the network. So politicians, with help from CEOs of companies providing the technology created publicity campaigns and bold proposals, like the recent Smart Schools Bond Act. The residents still have to wait, if they ever see how $980K allocated for MUFSD will be spent, but we do know that we’ll be paying the $2B bond off for many years to come.
Most probably, the bond funds will complement the funds budgeted for technology.
|Code||Account||2014-15 $*||2015-16 $*||$* increase||%|
|1||A2630.200-00||EQUIPMENT – TECHNOLOGY||55,000||282,000||228,000||417|
|2||A2630.400-00||CONTRACTUAL & OTHER TECHNOLOGY||393,000||501,000||109,000||28|
- The costs are associated with creating a sufficient bandwidth or network backbone.
- The line reflects leasing of iPads.
Although the politicians and CEOs are extolling “opportunities” the technology offers, sadly, the primary goal was to facilitate testing. It’s up to the district residents to develop the touted opportunities that are not mandated and the NYSED really doesn’t care about implementing. When tests are over, the evaluation has to be done. The evaluation costs actually dropped from $290K budgeted for this year, to only $270K next year. Line-item A2110.400-30 APPR & RTI.
All the line-items above represent increases in double digit percentages. Here are the cuts in double digit percentages, mainly in materials and supplies:
curriculum writing (44%, $2K saved); equipment (21%, $1K; 91%, $13,600); PE contract (55%, $850); music contract (46%, $13K); textbooks (100%, $6K); supplies & materials on many lines (20%, 23%, 39%, 15%, and more in this category).
To conclude, I want to point out one more line-item that also finds place in the instructional part of the budget—personal data collection and sharing. As the table shows, residents pay ever increasing contract fees for sharing their personal data. The highest data transfer is facilitated by the state tests.
After losing inBloom last spring, the Regents communicated their wish the BOCES collects and shares the data until further notice. Where is the data going? Possibly to this company. Who knows.
The instructional part represents approximately 60% of the budget. The implementation of the Common Core added significant costs. $850K annually in MUFSD (1,770 students K–12) by my estimate, half of that amount is spent on the test prep, testing, and evaluation. But no matter how much money the districts throw on the test prep, the NYSED always wins. The final score of standardized tests is determined by setting the algorithm AFTER the tests are collected and sent to NYSED.
The high costs, long time spent on preparation and tests, and the autocratic process how the changes were presented caused parents to spring to action. They realized their best defense was to refuse the tests. What has started as scarce refusals in 2012, the year of CCSS implementation in NYS, grew in a mainstream movement. More parents understand there is a higher principle at stake—take control back—than their individual score. District leaders who want to avoid organizational nightmare on the day of test send home a questionnaire (open a .pdf), as they recognize it’s better to separate test-takers from students who’ll be “quietly reading.” There is also a website hosting a convenient tool, where parents can look up their district and notify school administration about their test refusal.
* All $ amounts are rounded and budgeted.