Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Worcester By the Numbers: yes, let's look at those numbers...

You may have seen from today's paper that the Municipal Research Bureau has issued a "by the numbers" report on Worcester Public Schools and the city charter schools.
There were a couple of things that were pretty obviously not dealt with in the report, a few of which were then picked up the reporters: Ms. Reis (above) captured the classification of teachers and the change that makes in calculating average salary; Mr. Bird understood that salary is a function of experience and longevity (both of which are positives). When these corrections are factored in:
Within the Research Bureau Report, this average salary amount turns out to be lower than Boston, Boylston, Lawrence, Leicester, Lowell, Millbury, Shrewsbury, and the state average.    
The most glaring piece that was missed--which makes a rather significant impact on the headline the T&G chose for today--is that demographics impact budget. As Mr. Allen put it in his memo to the School Committee today regarding this:
...the budget growth reflects a shift in demographic and socio-economic status of students within the Worcester Public Schools.  Additional funds, beyond a base level, are provided to all districts based on the number of English Language Learners (ELL) and low income students within the district.  During the time period of the report, the number of low income students in the Worcester Public Schools increased from 15,221 to 17,591 (+15.6%) and the number of ELL students increased from 5,367 to 5,941 (+10.7%).  This change in student demographic and socio-economic status provided the additional 2.24% in funding increases based solely on the state formula used to calculate the foundation budget for a community
(emphasis mine) This of course is in addition to the calculation of inflation, which is the other multiplier for the public school budget. And recall that the Worcester Public Schools budget has been the minimum amount required under state law.
The other piece most in need of correction is the report's assertion that "Worcester’s two charter schools have similar demographics and high needs populations to those in the WPS." This is, to put it bluntly, not the case:
The data show that the population of students attending the Worcester Public Schools is actually more disadvantaged than the population of students that attended Abbey Kelley Foster Seven Hills and charter schools in 2012-13. 
 WPS                Charter Schools*                 AKF                   Seven Hills
ELL         34.3                  9.5                                       3.0                        23.5
1st lang**    44.0                 12.4                                      3.0                        32.7
High Need     81.7                 73.7                                      68.1                      85.8
Low Income   73.1                 67.8                                      62.9                      78.3
Sped          20.7                 11.0                                      11.4                      10.0

*weighed average
**1st language other than English
apologies for the funky spacing on the chart. Look back at the original for better alignment.

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