This article is going to be one of those that is complicated and full of data. There’s simply no way around it. However, we’ll summarize the data AND provide the spreadsheets and links so you can go look for yourself. The graphic chart to the left comes from an article from the Seattle Times titled “Washington’s 2018 state test scores still show large gaps between student groups”. The title of the article is a hot link incase you want to read it. Please note that the Times makes it clear that Washington States “passing” score levels are lower than other areas of the United States…which means that the “passing” scores are even worse when compared to other states.
What is the take-away from reading this article? We are spending 32 to 102% more money per student over the past years with essentially flat test results.
Whats the intent of this article?
Answer: To look at the expenditures of schools in Southwest Washington State over the last 5 years to understand how spending has changed relative to the number of students AND how this compares to the Smarter Balanced test score results over the same 5 year period.
What are the sources of data?
- The 2018-19 Washington State Report Card: https://washingtonstatereportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/ReportCard/ViewSchoolOrDistrict/103300 What is this? It’s the test results for the State of Washington also broken down by district. Remember that this report card was created by OSPI (Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction) and is designed to share the information they want seen and presented in the way they want to see it. Note: The prior years are a completely different format so it’s incredibly difficult to compare one year to another since they keep changing the data points and reports. You can choose any district for 2018-19 and generate a report in the same format as the State look.
- The K-12 data for the State and by District: http://fiscal.wa.gov/K12Data.aspx What is this? It allows you to look at the data by year for expenditures. For instance you can see that the 2014-15 State K-12 expenditures were $11,296,205,450 (billion) to support 1,031,554 students which works out to $10,950 per student. Slide over to 2018-19 and State expenditures were $16,325,948,479 (billion) to support 1,095,701 students which works out to $14,900 per student. So in that 5 year period State K-12 expenditures increased from $11,296,205,450 to $16,325,948,479 = $5,029,743,029 = a 44.52% increase. The spend per student went from $10,950 to $14,900 = an increase of $3,950 = 36.07%. You can work the data as you want.
So what did we do to gather data?
First, we contacted OSPI and asked for their help breaking the data down so it could be used to compare across years. They told us to go to the State Data Portal (https://www.k12.wa.us/data-reporting/data-portal) and use the “search” function using key terms. They also noted that the full data file has over 1 million records in it and won’t load in Excel without special tools and by someone who is an expert. They didn’t offer to help. It was up to us to figure it out.
Next, we went to: https://www.k12.wa.us/policy-funding/school-apportionment/safs-report-api and looked up each school district in Southwest Washington and transcribed the data into a spreadsheet.
Then, we created a set of spreadsheets to organize the data. From there we’re providing the actual spreadsheet files so you can check them for yourself. We did some screenshots to help tell the story. So, without further ado here’s the info. Spreadsheet: WAState_ESD112_SWW_SDs_Smarter_Balanced_Results
All of the tables below are in the Excel file above so you can download and open yourself. The sizes of some of the screenshots may be a bit small and hard to read on a PC and too small to see on a phone.
Let’s start out with this chart “2018/19 OSPI Smarter Balanced Test Results”.
This is the data from the Report Cards for the State, 9 districts in SWW and ESD 112 (which contains districts in Clark County + some others…the data is extremely limited which is the reason for the empty spaces).
What do we see here?
- The test results for all grades as reported by OSPI for the 2018/19 school year (the most recent)
- The % Met ELA/Math are the percent who “passed”. For instance at the State level for ELA (English) 59.6% passed which means that 40.4% failed. For Math 48.9% passed which means that 51.1% failed.
- We then pulled the data for past years going back to 2014/15 (5 years) because that’s when this Smarter Balanced (Common Core) testing began.
- Staying with 2018/19 80.9% graduated vs. 77.2% in 2014/15. This means that 19.1% of students did NOT graduate
- 82.9% of students attended school…which means that 17.1% of students did NOT attend on a regular basis. This is especially important to understand because this means that those students likely didn’t take this test which means the scores are only for those who attended school. That makes the numbers even worse! But wait…there’s more: The attendance % in 2014/15 was 84.1% and now it’s 82.9% or a slippage of 1.2%! [Note: It’s even worse…they’ve changed the rules about suspension and keep the students in school in a classroom so they get credit for attendance]
- The data reported in 2018/19 is different from past year making comparison difficult or impossible. That’s why we used these reporting fields to try and get consistency across the data so you can see what’s changed
- Now lets look at the data for the 9 districts (we left Green Mountain off because they are so tiny) and see what we see:
- In 6 of the 9 districts the graduation rate % is larger than the attendance %. How could a larger percent of students graduate than attend? Trying to figure this one out. If you have an explanation please share. Perhaps they mean to say that of those attended the percent of who graduated?
- Camas has the highest passing rate in ELA and Math
- Evergreen (the largest district with the biggest budget) has the worse performance at 49.7 passing ELA = 50.3% failing. In Math they have 39.3% passing = 60.7% failing
- Graduation rates all exceed the State…except for Battle Ground where 77.6% graduate vs. the State at 80.9%
- Woodland spends the most per student at $13,660 vs. the State average of $12,811
- Ridgefield spent the least per student ($10.058) but had the 2nd highest test scores of the 9
- Note the range of average teachers experience (in years). La Center comes in at 18.1 which means their cost for teachers is going to be higher than other districts.
- Vancouver comes in at the lowest average years of experience (11.0) so their teacher costs will be slightly lower
- The ESD 112 teacher experience average = 15.2 so it appears that teachers tend to stay teaching
- Pick your school district to look at the data
What is this chart?
We have broken out WA State and each of the 9 districts and put all their data together for each entity for the 2014/15 to 2018/19 period so you can see the changes for each over time. If the “change” numbers are in GREEN they are positive and if in RED they are negative (declining)
- You can see that three (3) districts have had a decline in the total number of students over the past 5 years
- Battle Ground has lost 221 students = an average decline of -44/year
- Evergreen has lost 936 students = an average decline of -187/year
- Vancouver has lost 86 = an average decline of -17/year
- Camas has gained 630 students for an average increase of +126/year
- Ridgefield has gained 886 students for an average increase of +177/year
- Given the housing growth over the last 5 years school districts and the public were told (or led to believe) that the districts would be flooded with new students. This impression may have contributed to voter approval of nearly $1 billion in capital bonds for the Vancouver SD and over $800 million for the Evergreen district
- Several districts have seen notable changes in graduation rates:
- Ridgefield’s grad rate has dropped -2.4 points over 5 years
- Camas’ grad rate has dropped by -1.5 points over 5 years
- Evergreen saw a +7.4 point INCREASE in grad rates
- Woodland saw at +7.1 point INCREASE in grad rates
- Vancouver was the standout with a +11.6 point INCREASE in grad rates
- How about attendance? Anything noteworthy?
- Woodland had an increase of +1.5 points
- Ridgefield improved by +2.8 points for the best of the 9
- Unfortunately every other district showed a DECLINE in attendance ranging from -2.3 to -9.9. This is especially troubling given that suspended students are now kept at school and show as attending. So, using the old rules the numbers could be worse.
Ok…last chart. Again, all of these are in the spreadsheet.
What do we get out of this chart?
First, it follows the money. We went to the OSPI website and opened to: https://www.k12.wa.us/policy-funding/school-apportionment/safs-report-api and opened each and every F-195 report for each school district for each year 2014/15 to 2018/19 and pulled the data each district reported to the State. We then transcribed that data into the spreadsheet (this took some time).
What are we after?
- Understanding the change in district budgets over the last 5 years
- Understanding the change in the number of students
- Understanding the expenditure per student by year and over the last 5 years
So…we could analyze
As you can see the increases in budgets (combination of State and local money) range from at 32% increase to as much as a 102% (yes that’s double) over the 5 year period.
You might ask what the inflation rates were for that 5 year period. Using the information at this link: https://www.in2013dollars.com/2014-dollars-in-2018?amount=100 we see that the total inflation was “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index, prices in 2018 are 6.07% higher than average prices throughout 2014. The dollar experienced an average inflation rate of 1.48% per year during this period, meaning the real value of a dollar decreased.” So prices in the economy went up ~6% and local school budgets increased 32-102% which = 5.33x to 17x HIGHER than inflation.
How have average wages done over the 5 year period? We would only find data for 2014 – 2017 (so 1 year short) and that indicates an average 8.26% income increase. That means that school district budgets increased 3.87x to 12.34x the average wage increase. That’s right…where do you find the money?
Now for the closer….
- Test scores have been essentially flat over the 5 years. Look at the State and then your local district
- The amount of money spent has increased far beyond wage increases and inflation
- What have you gotten for the billions in additional spending?
- The Washington State score threshold is lower than other states so these numbers are even worse!
If you got through to this point pat yourself on the back…there’s a lot to digest. If you have errors please let us know. If you think this is ok then do nothing. On the other hand, if you find this upsets your stomach speak up. Contact OSPI; contact your local school board and district. What can you do?
- Tell your school district to go back to basics
- Stop wasting money on social emotional programs, PBIS and testing kids into oblivion
- Focus on getting kids to communicate (verbal and written); do math for the real world; history (so they learn from the past) and throw in some “art”. Modify as your local preferences dictate
Will you act or just keep paying more and more and getting…..?????
Wait…one other article you might find interesting and useful: Schools get $13 billion funding increase, yet test scores don’t improve and low-income, minority students fall further behind