A Tough Five Years for Some NoVa School Districts?
A little number-crunching of data in the Virginia Department of Education’s Superintendent’s Annual Report, specifically Table 17 (formerly Table 2) produced some interesting five-year trends. For example, when comparing the five-year (2006 vs. 2011) trends of enrollment data (i.e., average daily membership or ADM) and the change in the number of classroom teachers for the same five-year period.
Table 17 in the Supintendent's Annual Report computes pupil-teacher ratios, but our analysis below shows only the percentage trends in the two factors. However, that is not to say that pupil-teacher ratios are not important. Recall all the growling we did about the efficiency review of the Arlington Public Schools -- see the May 11, 2012, May 13, 2012, and May 17, 2012 growls, which discuss the presentation of the final efficiency review to the Arlington School Board. Here is an excerpt from the minutes of the School Board's May 10, 2012 meeting. Note the emphasis on the $30 million, which represents the estimated cost the School Board is overspending to achieve the lowest class sizes:
"An additional key message was that APS has the lowest overall pupil-teacher ratio when compared to peer Washington Area Board of Education (WABE) districts, at an estimated cost of $30 million per year. Recognizing that this is an academic investment that Arlington has chosen to make, Mr. Gibson encouraged the Board to be sure that it is getting the academic return on this investment. He also noted that this decision will be of particular ias capacity issues are becoming more significant in the schools."
Table 17 presents elementary data for grades K-7 and secondary grades in one table, but since they show different trends, we’ll present them separately, starting with the data for grades K-7 first:
- Arlington: Enrollment increased 21.2%. Teacher staffing increased 15.1%.
- Alexandria: Enrollment increased 20.2%. Teacher staffing increased 5.2%.
- Fairfax: Enrollment increased 8.3%. Teacher staffing increased 3.4%.
- Falls Church: Enrollment increased 21.2%. Teacher staffing increased 32.6%.
- Loudoun: Enrollment increased 31.4%. Teacher staffing increased 5.1%.
- Prince William: Enrollment increased 15.2%. Teacher staffing increased 11.7%.
- Virginia: Enrollment increased 2.8%. Teacher staffing decreased <1.7%>.
So except for Loudoun County where there was a loss of efficiency in the ratio of pupils to classroom teachers, the other Northern Virginia school districts did become more efficient although in different degrees, assuming that results such as SAT and SOL scores increased or remained the same.
Now let’s take a look at the secondary grades.
- Arlington: Enrollment increased 8.9%. Teacher staffing increased 2.6%.
- Alexandria: Enrollment increased 6.2%. Teacher staffing decreased <4.6%>.
- Fairfax: Enrollment increased 4.9%. Teacher staffing decreased <7.0%>.
- Falls Church: Enrollment increased 4.7%. Teacher staffing decreased <8.2%>.
- Loudoun: Enrollment increased 35.0%. Teacher staffing increased 21.1%.
- Prince William: Enrollment increased 13.2%. Teacher staffing decreased <6.2%>.
- Virginia: Enrollment increased 0.9%. Teacher staffing decreased <6.9%>.
Again, Loudoun County remains the outlier in this analysis. Remember, though, that it is seeing a large increase in the construction of new schools. The remaining schools saw increases in their secondary efficiency, including the Arlington Public Schools, given the same assumption as above about student scores.
It would be fair to say the years 2006 -- 2011 were years of varying degrees of fiscal stress. Consequently, it’s interesting to see how the different school districts responded to that stress.