Monday, May 28, 2012

Real Costs of Oregon's Mandated Achievement Compacts

by Tom Olson

In my SOS blog I conservatively estimate a $20,000 unfunded cost imposed on local district to engage staff, community, board in developing achievement compact and negotiating the compact with state officials.
Here's how I arrived at the estimate. Remember, that the costs will likely go up next year, because 1581 requires the formation of a formal advisory group which will require even greater administrator/boardcommunity/staff dialogue.



1. Superintendent and administrative staff time devoted to clarifying conversations with state officials and orienting/explaining the achievement compact mandate to board, staff and community = minimum of 50 hours of administrative time (average cost of $100 per hour) = $5,000

2. Planning for, engaging and summarizing serious parent, community and staff input on

· the district's outcomes (and measures) necessary for student success that should be stated in the achievement compact

· Highest priority strategic improvement strategies

minimum of 100 hours of staff and administrative time (average cost of $80 per hour) = $8,000 (in addition to community members’ volunteer time to provide advice and input)

3. Working with administrative and teaching staff to search for available appropriate measures to measure the outcomes and to finalize the achievement compact = minimum of 50 hours (average cost of $80 per hour)= $5,0,00

4. Administrative time in securing board approval of priorities and budget adjustments, and negotiating the compact with state officials = mimimum of 20 hours (average cost of $100 per hour) = $2,000

Total cost in administrative and staff time = $20,000

Total statewide cost = 197 district X $20,000 = $3,940,000

Note: This estimate does not include the ongoing additional costs of measuring and reported the wide variety of outcomes now mandated by the state. This is a very conservative statewide estimate, and would definitely be inflated by the much greater costs incurred by the state's larger districts!

This estimate prepared by Tom Olson, Strategic Planning Consultant/Facilitator

Olson, a former high school teacher, administrator, executive in the Illinois Office of Education and two regional educational laboratories, has served as a strategic planning facilitator over the past two decades. He advised 13 different states and Pacific territories on their reform efforts, and has consulted with and facilitated well more than 500 local district and state strategic reform projects. He finished his career serving as Executive Director of the Western States Benchmarking Consortium (WSBC) for seven years. The Consortium is a nationally recognized group of seven unusually-high performing districts located in six states across the West. The Consortium developed and implemented nationally acclaimed research-based strategic improvement benchmarks and measurement techniques, including ones for evaluating a) district data-driven decision making procedures, b) community involvement, c) capacity building of staff and systems and d) student learning. Several of the Consortium superintendents were named state superintendents of the year and one was named national superintendent of the year.

Olson has also been an active volunteer and advocate for children. He recently served as facilitator for the 112-member Canby Vision Team, an ambitious community engagement effort to solicit advice on future directions for the Canby School District in these tough economic times.. He also is a volunteer advisory committee member of the Canby Dental Health Program for Children and Youth, and Canby’s Community Based Learning volunteers program. Olson is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Canby Education Foundation. He also served as President of the International Society of Educational Planners. He has spoken and written widely about educational issues, and has received numerous educational leadership and service awards.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Wise Investments in Education? Not in Oregon!

by Tom Olson

Yesterday’s Oregonian’s editorial, gushed over Intel, its new Chairman and the State’s “Strategic Investment Program (SIP).” The paper appeared particularly proud that the SIP has waived huge amounts of property and other taxes on Intel. I found it terribly ironic that the editorial concluded: “We also hope the state has learned from them the value of wise investments, particularly in education.”

The irony? Intel soars, thanks to Oregon’s overly generous tax breaks, while our public schools shrivel. Here are some brutal facts that should create outrage among our citizens.

· Oregon has lost almost 16% of our teachers, teaching assistants, and school maintenance and clerical workers over the past three years.

· Our high school class sizes have soared by 28.6% (Do you think students get individual attention when physics classes have 45 kids?)

· Elementary class sizes have increased by more than 19%. (Do we really think 30 or more kindergartners in a class meets their needs?)

· In aggregate, our school districts cut 287 school days in the current school year. (Try helping struggling kids with 15 fewer learning days!). The aggregate over the past three years amounts to 951 lost days for learning!

· Oregon’s per student spending has declined from 15th in the nation in 1997-98 to 33rd in 2008-2009.

· K-12 schools’ share of Oregon’s state budget has dropped from 44% in 2003-2005 to 39% in 2011-2013

· Since 2003, Public Education has received less than one-third of the percentage increase that went to Public Safety. We spend more on prisons than education.

· According to the legislature’s own Quality Education Commission research, the state is current $3 billion short of what it takes to provide K-12 quality education.

· The last five years saw a 5% reduction in spending on K-12 schools. Yet, the state’s total tax breaks grew by 12%. These breaks amount to over $26 billion, while funding for K-12 schools has shrunk to current level of $5.6 billion.

· The number of Oregon children living in poverty continues to escalate, and these children have special health and learning needs. The states’ response? Ignore this reality and push harder on our educators as the sole “solution.” This is a travesty.

In the face of these brutal facts, what “transformational” action did the Governor and legislature take in the this session? They required “achievement compacts”. Districts will have to promise to measure and achieve more than 100 performance targets in these “compacts”!!! A conservative estimate is that the development of these achievement compacts in an average-sized district will cost at least $20,000 in administrative and teachers’ staff time. This is time that could and should have been devoted to teaching and learning rather than one more demand to measure, measure, measure. And, isn’t a “compact” supposed to be a two way agreement? Nothing in these compacts is two way! The state orders additional work in the face of the above facts, and offers nothing in return.

I ask each reader to join me in asking the Governor and our legislators to sign an achievement compact. That compact will ask for the politicians’ promise to take specific bold steps to make increased wise state investments in education—and to be held accountable to citizens for such steps. No more mumbling,“maybe in the future.” No more back-room promises to “get tougher” on accountability as a dodge to avoid Constitutional funding responsibilities.

Here is a link to such a compact. Please immediately end it off to them for their signature. If they refuse to sign it ask them why. The Governor and legislature have said that they haven’t heard a groundswell of concern about funding our schools. Let ‘em hear the groundswell NOW!!!

Tom Olson ---

Olson is a retired Canby grandparent, and an active local volunteer and member of Oregon Save Our Schools. Sources; State of Oregon Tax Expenditure Reports, Oregon Legislative Fiscal Office, Our Oregon, Oregon Education Association.