Budgeting for The Race to The Top Instruction

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
SUM 198,000 287,000 89,000
  1. 201314-ELAandMath-Students-MUFSDThe line-item entertains a 3-month test prep contract (January–March).
  2. The line-item represents salaries for before-, after- school, and Saturday test prep classes.
  3. 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
SUM 448,000 783,000 337,000
  1. The costs are associated with creating a sufficient bandwidth or network backbone.
  2. 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.

Code Account 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16
A2010.400-00 BOCES Services

$42,000

$83,000 $147,000 $133,000

$163,000

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.

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Budgeting for The Race to The Top Instruction — 4 Comments

  1. This is great info Jan. Thank you for keeping me informed about the budget process. I am wondering about the most recent college & career ready stat in Malverne. Do you have an understanding of what caused such a dramatic drop off? From the 12-13 school year to the 13-15 school year the percentage of students deemed college and career ready dropped from 50% to 33% putting SD 12 near the very bottom of the ranking.

      • Gina,
        I have no knowledge of rankings you present. I don’t follow. I am very skeptical of ANY charts or rankings. When the PISA international results were released in 2013, they became a mass-hysteria in the US. But the French press dismissed the first 5 top-ranked countries, as only their elitist metropolitan schools were included in the study. Another example, it should not be difficult to account for HS graduates who were accepted to a college. Evidently, it’s a problem for the NYSED. So when a methodology is flawed or data is inaccurate, the results are skewed.
        On the other hand, in October, I suggested the Malverne HS participates in a new project developed by the University of Colorado to counter the meaningless, but popular “accountability” rankings. The schools get a badge after fulfilling the requirements. One of the project developer and member is the high school in RVC. The process is quite elaborate and that’s what I find beneficial. Our school could collaborate with our neighbor.

        • I find hard data very useful in determining performance on multiple levels from student performance to real estate values to economic indicators. As a rule I eliminate the top and bottom 10% to account for exactly what you cite the French press said. That rule put Malverne at the bottom in college and career readiness, based on hard data, which was the reason for my initial inquiry.