Posts tagged ‘K through 12’

August 28, 2013

Public school administration staff surges in growth while test scores plunge

by Grace

The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools

America’s K-12 public education system has experienced tremendous historical growth in employment, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Between fiscal year (FY) 1950 and FY 2009, the number of K-12 public school students in the United States increased by 96 percent while the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) school employees grew 386 percent. Public schools grew staffing at a rate four times faster than the increase in students over that time period. Of those personnel, teachers’ numbers increased 252 percent while administrators and other staff experienced growth of 702 percent, more than seven times the increase in students.


Between FY 1992 and FY 2009, the number of K-12 public school students nationwide grew 17 percent while the number of full-time equivalent school employees increased 39 percent, 2.3 times greater than the increase in students over that 18-year period. Among school personnel, teachers’ staffing numbers rose 32 percent while administrators and other staff experienced growth of 46 percent; the growth in the number of administrators and other staff was 2.7 times that of students.


Here are the staggering growth rates for New York State.


ADMINISTRATORS OUTNUMBER TEACHERS IN 25 STATES, an increase from the original report.

From the report:

Twenty-one “Top-Heavy States” employed fewer teachers than other non-teaching personnel in 2009. Thus, those 21 states have more administrators and other non-teaching staff on the public payroll than teachers. Virginia “leads the way” with 60,737 more administrators and other non-teaching staff than teachers in its public schools.

Professor Mark Perry updated staffing numbers for 2010, and was amazed to find the “administrative and non-teaching bloat” in America’s public schools has gotten even worse, with 25 states now employing more “educrats than teachers.”  Across the entire country, there is a one-to-one ratio of teachers to non-teaching staff.








In related news, New York students’ scores take huge plunge in new state school tests.

Statewide, only 31 percent of students in third through eighth grades met or exceeded the proficiency standards in English and math this year, a drop of more than half compared with last year….

September 13, 2012

New York school district gets ‘creative’ by tracking students for reading instruction

by Grace

Everything old is new again.  A Westchester County school district is trying a “new approach” of tracking students for reading instruction.

PORT CHESTER — After cutting a staff of reading specialists from the budget, the schools are starting a new approach for children who need extra help in literacy.

All four elementary schools will dedicate one period a day to specialized literacy instruction, based on students’ needs. That replaces a practice of pulling particular children out of classes for reading assistance.

“It’s pretty creative,” said Carlos Sanchez, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for the district. Those with the greatest needs will be grouped accordingly, and those performing above grade level will take part in enrichment programs.

Tracking, or separating students into instructional groups based on their proficiency levels, begin to fall out of favor in the 1960s because it was considered inconsistent with “equality of opportunity”.  I remember hearing one local school administrator tell parents that grouping students by ability before 8th grade would permanently scar them.  But since it’s now portrayed as a “creative” method of “specialized literacy instruction”, it may have found new acceptance by the PC police.

The fact is that meta-analysis supports ability grouping.

The academic benefits are clearest for those in the higher ability groups, but students in the lower groups are not harmed academically by grouping and they gain academic ground in some grouping programs.

Today’s proponents of ability grouping stress that it should be based on proficiency levels and should offer flexibility so students can move between groups when appropriate.  Instead of “tracking”, a more descriptive term is “flexible proficiency grouping”.

Pull-outs and differentiated instruction are problematic

To replace grouping, schools have tried pulling students out of class for additional services and offering differentiated instruction within the classroom.  But there are problems with these alternatives.

“In a pullout program, kids miss something to get something,” Sanchez said.

“In this type of set-up, everybody gets what they need. Nobody’s falling behind because they miss a half-hour of curriculum,” Sanchez said.

Differentiation places an unreasonable demand on teachers, with a recent survey finding that 83% of them find differentiation difficult to implement in practice.  No surprise there, with many classrooms including students three or more grades levels apart in academic skills.

Lumping all students together is not the best option, and could be a factor in the growing achievement gap.

This approach stunts later achievement levels for many students of varying ability levels.  But it’s the students on the lower end of the distribution curve who probably suffer the most, with fewer resources to make up for an inadequate educational process.

Cutting costs while improving student achievement
The Port Chester schools turned to proficiency grouping after budget cuts forced staff reductions.  A silver lining to the new era of controlling public education costs may be that more schools begin to try new “creative” approaches.  Over the years, heterogeneous grouping fueled the need for smaller class sizes and bigger staffs, so an unexpected outcome of “new” instructional methods could be improved academic outcomes at lower costs.


March 30, 2012

Differentiation places an unreasonable demand on teachers

by Grace

Differentiating instruction in today’s mixed-proficiency classrooms is tough on teachers, and it’s certainly not always best for students.

83% [CORRECTED*] of teachers surveyed said that in practice, differentiated instruction is difficult to implement.

Malcolm Unwell explains it this way.

Perhaps there is a student who is just learning English in your class. And perhaps that student sits next to another who wants to have an in-depth discussion about Shakespeare. Should these two students prove difficult to teach at once, a normal person might consider what the root problem is — that they shouldn’t be in the same class. But the wise education bureaucrat knows that any problem here must be the teacher’s — he must not have differentiated his instruction enough.

Separating students according to ability is traditionally known as “tracking,” and it is frowned upon by the educational establishment.  Having students of varying ability in the same class is known as “inclusion,” and it is smiled upon.  While I was earning my MAT, I quickly realized that advocating tracking was simply not a valid position to put forth in education world, or “thought world” as E.D. Hirsch described it.  Tracking is unfair, and undemocratic.  It perpetuates the pattern of hegemony and domination present in the larger culture.

A local school administrator told parents that tracking students before 8th grade would permanently scar them.  Consequently, in our local district almost all classrooms up to 9th grade are mixed proficiency.  The elementary math program requires that the teacher spend the first part of class on a lesson geared towards all her students, with the expectation that everyone will learn something from it.  In reality, some struggling students still don’t comprehend it and some advanced students are bored.  After this whole group introduction, then the teacher is supposed to differentiate instruction for all proficiency levels.  Problems are “adapted for multiple ability levels”

These problems are sometimes referred to as “low threshold, high ceiling” problems because all students can understand the problem and solve some part of it (low threshold), but even the highest-ability students in the class will not easily complete it (high ceiling).

So teachers present adapted versions of the same problem, tailoring them to personal proficiency levels.  In theory it sounds nice, but in practice it must be much more challenging than teaching to a homogeneous group of students.  I always think of how inefficient it is, especially when reformers call out for longer school days.

It is now unacceptable to simply teach a lesson to a class, and assess the students according to how well he demonstrates his knowledge of the content.  Different students should have different lessons with different assessments.  Needless to say, this is completely unworkable  in practice.  It is doubtful, really, that any teacher actually does this.  If one did, it would likely be a chaotic disaster in which learning is incidental or nonexistent.

In this differentiated instruction environment, all students can be “successful”.  But parents should be aware that it may be at a “low threshold” of success.

* The percentage was off by 1 point before I corrected it.

Hat tip to Joanne Jacobs

September 9, 2011 – Regents reform agenda website for New York educators

by Grace

John B. King Jr., the new state education commissioner, released back-to-school messages Tuesday and unveiled a new website — — to provide information on the state’s reform initiatives.

He urged parents to ask their children, “What did you learn today? What does that mean?” And he asked educators to ask themselves: “Where are we in terms of our goals and where are we in terms of our students’ college and career readiness and how do we get there?”

Those are excellent questions educators should be asking.  It’s better than simply asking how innovative, how engaging or how technologically advanced they are.  These questions are good, but of secondary importance.

EngageNY is an evolving, collaborative platform for educators. As the Regents Reform Agenda moves forward across the state, we want you to be able to access and share resources that work for you.

A bit more about us: New York’s educators are always investigating better ways to improve what is being taught, how it’s being taught, and what to do about obstacles to student learning.

It was with these concerns in mind that we designed the Content Areas that Network Teams, administrators, principals, and teachers will use to facilitate change in schools:

  1. Common Core standards
  2. The Data-Driven Instruction cycle (DDI) and School-Based Inquiry (SBI)
  3. Teacher/Leader effectiveness (performance management systems)

As reform priorities grow and evolve over time, EngageNY will grow and evolve, too – so that you always have the resources you need to ensure success in your school.

August 30, 2011

‘co-teaching seldom raises student achievement’

by Grace

Few ideas have captured the imagination of special educators more than co-teaching, the practice of teaming a special education teacher with a general education teacher in a regular classroom for students with and without an IEP. The hope is that the general education teacher provides content expertise and the special educator provides modifications and accommodations to students with special needs (and perhaps all the children in the class).

Proponents of co-teaching extol it as ― the best of both worlds, because it ―brings children together rather than separates them and finally knocks down the walls between general education and special education.

Unfortunately, co-teaching is like dieting. Lots of people want to lose weight and look good in a bathing suit, but actually doing so is hard. National research indicates that co-teaching seldom raises student achievement.

I’ve not been impressed with the results when I’ve seen co-teaching up close.  It seems that the resources being used could be channeled into more efficient methods.  Teachers typically have very little say in any decisions to use co-teaching.

Something Has Got to Change:  Rethinking Special Education

Recent cutbacks at the nearby Mount Vernon school district

The layoffs mean that the district will have fewer classrooms staffed by two teachers.

Under the new approach, special-education teachers will only come into the classrooms that have a mix of nondisabled and special-education students for part of the day.

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