Monday, March 30, 2009

Overstaffed Public Schools

-- Finally getting the message

From our early days the Bluegrass Institute has pointed out that there is something wrong with the ratio of teachers to other staff in our schools. This graph, which shows Kentucky ranks dead last for this ratio among the 50 states and even Washington, DC, has run ever since the early days of the Bluegrass Institute’s “Ten Great Reasons for School Choice” started publication half a decade ago (See the current "Ten Great Reasons" here).


Historically, not everyone agreed with us.

For example, the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence took some issue with the graph above back in 2005. See their comments and our response in the far right column of page 4 in this document where it talks about Reason No. 8.

But, times are changing. Over at the Prichard Blog, Susan Weston now raises concerns that Kentucky seems to have overstaffing problems in its public schools.

Well, this isn’t a new issue, but it is new for Prichard Committee to revise their position to agree with our long-running analysis and concerns.

So, without a doubt, our “tooth to tail” teacher to staff ratio in Kentucky’s public schools does look problematic. Even Prichard now admits that.

This needs an investigation.

2 comments:

Susan Weston said...

In your comment over at the Prichard Blog, you claimed this post was about what you, Richard, had been saying for years.

Over here, the attachment is a piece Jim Waters wrote in 2005.

Over there, my post was about staff numbers in proportion to enrollment.

Over here, the relevant part of Jim's piece is about teacher numbers in proportion to other staff.

Over there, my comment was as follows:

"Those differences invite some discussion. I’m not arguing that Kentucky should staff schools to those averages. There may be important benefits to what we do differently, and our students may have different needs. I do think, though, that this is an interesting mirror to look in, inviting us to think about how we currently staff public education."

Over here, you report:

"Susan Weston now raises concerns that Kentucky seems to have overstaffing problems in its public schools."

Richard Innes said...

Here are some points concerning Susan’s comments.

Susan writes: “In your comment over at the Prichard Blog, you claimed this post was about what you, Richard, had been saying for years.

Over here, the attachment is a piece Jim Waters wrote in 2005.”


Actually, my first reference in the main blog is to the “Ten Great Reasons for School Choice” and the graph from that publication included in the main blog. Jim didn’t create that graph, which has been in the “Ten Great Reasons” since its early days; I did that.

In fact, I was writing about the staffing issue even before the Bluegrass Institute was on my “radar screen.” Way back in April 2003, months before I knew anything about the institute, I put out “KERA Update #67” (http://www.eddatafrominnes.com/pdfs/KERAUP67.pdf) which discussed the staffing issue.

Another place where I raise the staffing issue is in our Bang for the Buck report on school efficiency (http://www.freedomkentucky.org/images/d/d0/Bang_for_the_Buck_Downloaded.pdf), which I authored in 2006.

So yes, I have been saying this for years – our teacher to staff ratio looks questionable.

By the way, the Jim Waters item wasn’t included to establish when I started talking about this issue. It was included to show that Prichard wasn’t terribly receptive in 2005.

Susan Writes: “Over there, my post was about staff numbers in proportion to enrollment.

Over here, the relevant part of Jim's piece is about teacher numbers in proportion to other staff.”


I don’t see an issue here. Both analyses, which are based on closely related data, point to the same basic issue. Regardless of how you slice the data, the results indicate that staffing in Kentucky’s schools looks out of line. While you use a somewhat different approach to analyze the numbers, your work still leads to the same ultimate conclusion. Actually, your added analysis makes our original case that much stronger, and I’m glad you added it to the discussion.

Susan Writes: "Over there, my comment was as follows:

‘Those differences invite some discussion. I’m not arguing that Kentucky should staff schools to those averages. There may be important benefits to what we do differently, and our students may have different needs. I do think, though, that this is an interesting mirror to look in, inviting us to think about how we currently staff public education.’

Over here, you report:

‘Susan Weston now raises concerns that Kentucky seems to have overstaffing problems in its public schools.’"


I don’t think my summation of your comments is out of line. To “invite some discussion” certainly implies there is a level of concern; otherwise, why would you even bother to raise the issue and indicate we should take the time and expense to look into it?

Also, please note my use of the tentative word, “seems,” in my discussion of your comments. I think that reasonably captures your somewhat circumspect view of your own rather compelling data.

Finally, don’t forget that I link back to your article so that people can see exactly what you said and form their own opinions. In the days of the Web, this is a different deal from just putting a reference in a footnote. You don’t have to go to the library to hunt down the reference – it’s only a mouse click away. Our readers can check what you said for themselves and form their own opinions.

That’s why I value Blogging. Everyone can get involved in the issues – in real time. You and I are going to disagree from time to time on interpretations, but with both our sets of analyses readily available to the public, our readers now can finally hear all sides of the argument and form a much better understanding of the issues.

In this particular case, I think a lot of people are going to look at what both of us have written and see that there is cause for concern about Kentucky’s school staffing. That is going to help get a research project started, which is what I think you and I both favor.

The bottom line is that in these days of tight funding, if we have inefficiencies in our schools, we need to figure that out and make changes. Our students and taxpayers both deserve no less.