Thursday, January 28, 2010

Crappy! Chart! Thursday!

I'm going to start with a recap.
In October, I produced a fancy set of charts. It was boring and budget-y, in the way of many a power point presentation, but relevant in a nerdy way. The upshot of the fancy charts: SPS's central administration was tooooo big. And it looked like the fastest growing segment in central administration was Supervision of Instruction.

The district responded that, well, um, you see, they had "mis-coded" $10.3M worth of coaches (although judging from the CFOO's financial report about a month later, p23, it would appear that it was ack-shully $11.1M of coaches), and if you just counted the coaches as teachers, everything was ducky. No problems here.

That's pretty much the end of the recap.

The thing is, kids, if you take a quick peek on OSPI (at the always scintillating F-195 budget reports), where, according to SPS officials, "this year, the 'miscoding' of coaches to central administration will continue," you'll find something that looks like this.
Okay. The slide is fuzzy and pixilated. But guess what segment of SPS grew last year, when every single other budget segment got chopped back a little? That's right: Central Administration. And even if you subtract coaching out of it (and puh-leaze, let's not get all literal-minded about "if you can't hire, fire or promote, you're not part of Supervision of Instruction, even if your primary job duty is to manage the professional development of another person" because it's just a dumb argument), guess what still grew? Yup. Central Administration.

The thing about the whole coaching investment* remaining stable (instead of getting the chop, as classrooms did in the form of increased class sizes in grades 4 and 5), is that if you read the Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2009-10, you'll come across a little something that indicates that SPS's investment in coaching was pruned back last year by about $2.4M. Except. It wasn't. Unless there are even more coaches running around the district than district leadership is letting on.

Let's take a look, shall we?

So, I get that the charts for Crappy! Chart! Thursday! really do suck, but... that's kind of a separate issue (for which I am willing to be bribed to improve, FYI).
In the bar chart above, each long bar is a year, and represents Supervision of Instruction, which is part of Central Administration. The green bit represents coaches, who now will be classified as teachers (the light blue is the remainder of the Supervision of Instruction segment). If you wanted to be cynical, you would say that this could make it harder to sort out growth in coaching if you hide the segment in with teachers. But none of us are cynical, right? Of course not. Anyway, it turns out that no, 28 coaching positions for a sum of $2.4M didn't go away. Coaching remained stable - and Supervision of Instruction grew. Again.
Do I have a point? Well... maybe not yet. But I have a whole lotta questions, like: does district staff really plan on increasing class sizes (again) and protecting the coaching expenses (again)?
And most of all, I want to ask: Dudes, what is up with this?

*So, I said this back in November, but I should say it again. There could be a valid case for the district's decision to invest so heavily in coaches. However, the district should make that case, clearly, thoroughly and openly, and acknowledge that there are also valid counter-arguments, particularly when keeping coaches may mean cuts to classrooms. And that I've seen, it hasn't been done. And that's where my beef with the segment is: there is no public rationale for it. It is clearly a spending priority for district administration, but there's been no disclosure of why.
Saying that it "aligns with the Strategic Plan" by the way, is not the same as making a rational, clear case.


Anonymous said...

Another issue with the classification of coaches as teachers is that it artificially lowers the student to teacher ratio without actually reducing class size.

Anonymous said...

I have had the same experience with SPS. I start with one question assuming that I am going to get an answer only to find myself asking several more questions once I receive a response. It just seems never ending.

It kind of clues me to the fact that no one person there has a real grasp of what's going on in terms of a larger picture.

One person has this information and another person has additional information but no one there seems to be able to put it all together.

Is that one of the definitions of a bureaucracy?

kellie said...

I simply love your writing and your charts. Bravo!

Anonymous said...

I love Crappy! Chart! Thursday! Thanks so much.

Aurora said...

Ms. Diaz-

I am impressed by all of your hard work. I am a parent of a special ed student and I wanted to bring to your attention ongoing discussion on the Special Ed PTSA blog (hosted by Yahoo) about very recent changes to the special ed service delivery models. It appears that in creating a new program last year, called ICS, the district cut the number of actual special ed teachers and replaced them with a number of supervising "consulting teachers." This changed some programs from a ratio of 1:8 to 1:22. This action seems similar to other trends in the district. Check out the blog if you have any interest in learning more. Many thanks for your work.

Aurora said...

Here is the link I referenced in my earlier post:

Meg said...

anon 1:34- it is another issue, and (okay, to me), yet another reason NOT to classify coaches as teachers. I'm pretty firmly of the opinion that it is to everyone's benefit to keep the expense category of Teaching Activities to the spending on direct instruction of students, and I think there are a number of reasons for doing it.

Dora- it gets a little frustrating. To be fair, though, sometimes I'm not totally sure where I'm going with a line of questioning until I look over some data, which has got to make it hard to give me a clear answer. Other times... it's frustrating.

Kellie and anon 4:12- thanks.

Aurora- I'm a McGilvra gen ed parent; my data on the ICS model is extremely anecdotal. In theory, ICS seems great - least restrictive environment (is that the right term?), supports to make that work for everyone, and so on. In practice, it seems as if it serves neither gen ed nor SpEd well, and, in fact, is something of a disaster for everyone who is directly involved. Still... you and the SpEd PTSA should look at my data just as skeptically as you look at the district's. I am a nerd, but that's different than being an authority. My understanding of IDEA funding is that there are a lot of rules on it being spent, but I don't know what kind of discretion the district has when it comes to things like consulting teachers (and there appear to be about 14 or 15 SpEd consulting teachers - funded with ARRA and IDEA). On Title I, for instance, the district HAS to spend 10% on professional development (around $1.4M this year, and coaches would count as professional development spending). I don't know if rules like that are attached to the IDEA or the ARRA IDEA money.

You may be able to answer this: What do SpEd consulting teachers DO? Are they of genuine help to classroom teachers and IAs?

reader said...

"What do SpEd consulting teachers DO? Are they of genuine help to classroom teachers and IAs?"

I think their main job is probably damage control in the ICS schools. But, in our (ICS) school we have not seen a Consulting Teacher in months. The issues are way over her pay grade.

Anonymous said...

Ha! What do sped consulting teachers DO? How dare you ask that question. Well, let's begin at the beginning. It's a bit tricky because they don't teach, and they don't consult. You might assume they did that because of their title. They never, ever do 1 single thing in a classroom. Usually they are pretty inept and out of date. In fact, they would not even be able to identify which students were on their caseload, if they were to walk into a classroom. Very few parents know who "their" consulting teacher even is, and it changes about every 6 months. They do show up for meetings, where other people talk about kids. Usually they show up at meetings if there is a problem and a teacher wants to get rid of some kid in her class. They are able to point the way to some other school where there might not be a problem- a fresh start somewhere else. But, sometimes they show up to meetings just to practice sitting at meetings. They never have an educational opinion, they never have anything like a strategy or a suggestion, they never see a child, the never observe a class.

And no, no, no- there is no requirement for them in IDEA per se. There is the requirement under IDEA that the district provide an LEA representative at IEP meetings - that is somebody who is knowledgeable and has authority to commit resources to the child- a gate keeper. The principal generally serves that purpose. But, when they're trying to kick somebody out, they need somebody who knows where everything is located in the district. You wouldn't think a whole legion of consulting teachers would be required for those few cases.. though, but evidently they are.

Anonymous said...

Consulting teachers in special educations are bureaucrats who function in a role similar to insurance agents. Insurance agents deny claims and coverage; consulting teachers do the same. They just say no to all service requests. They protect the school district kitty from greedy, and endlessly needy, special education parents. The question is: would providing some services be cheaper than keeping an army dedicated to denying them?

Meg said...

Hmm. So maybe what I should ask is this: what is the INTENDED purpose of consulting teachers (and let's optimistically assume, even if just in these comments for now, generally good intentions despite a lousy execution)? If the intent WAS well-executed, what would the Platonic ideal of a consulting teacher look like?

Anonymous said...

Well gee probably the Consulting Teacher position was created to, you know, consult.

Who cares! There is so little interest in serving kids with disabilities in the general ed classrooms in this district that anyone from central office sped is doing one thing and thing only: damage control. In the Special Ed Audit it is even stated that in some buildings the principals will not allow the special ed consulting teacher into the building.

spedvocate said...

In a world of site based management, there's no use for a consulting teacher, other than as person with authority to do "placement" and remove a kid from a building. They aren't able to effect change in any building. Think about it. If you were a garden variety teacher out in a school, would you really want some central office-type waltzing in once every couple years and telling you how to run your class? or to train you? I can't think of any teacher who would want that, ever. If you were a general ed teacher (or a special ed self-contained teacher) with some kid in your class you didn't want or couldn't handle, would you call the consulting teacher to help you figure out what to do? No, of course not! You'd call the CT to move the kid out. That's what they do.

Once upon a time, and very long ago, I thikn special education staff in Seattle reported to central office and not principals. In that case, there was a tiny reason for them. Once upon a time, before there were computers, consulting teachers were the "keeper of the flame". Only they knew where everything was. It took 25 of them to keep that big secret. Now with the internet, it's really hard to keep everything secret. And also worthless.

In the best possible world, the consulting teacher would find the good school for the kid. That's the only role.

Anonymous said...

In the world of good intentions, consulting teachers consult about placement. In a world where everbody goes to their local school why do we need that?