Does Student Performance Depend on Which Schools are Closed?

Closing Schools in a Shrinking District: Does Student Performance Depend on Which Schools are Closed? This report is based on a study by a group from RAND Corporation, Carnegie Mellon University, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., University of Pennsylvania, and Vanderbilt University. The study evaluates the impact of school closures on student achievement by analyzing student achievement growth before and after the closures when a school closure plan explicitly seeks to move students from low-performing schools to higher performing schools. The methodology is complicated and detailed. The results are interesting. Here are some excerpt from the study:

Overcapacity was great enough that the district closed 22 schools at the conclusion of the 2005-06 school year. In selecting schools to be closed, academic performance was not the only criterion, but it was the first priority. The district designed the closure plan with the principle that any students who had to be moved because their school was closed would be moved to a school at least as high-performing as (and ideally higher-performing than) the one they left. Our aim is to examine the extent to which the district’s approach succeeded in producing better results for students forced to move, without undermining the achievement of students who did not move.

This suggests that the district’s strategy of seeking to move students to higher-performing schools was well founded: students moving to higher-performing schools saw smaller declines in achievement, and those who moved to substantially higher-performing schools could have seen no negative impact at all, as the benefit of the higher-performing school cancelled out the negative effect of moving.

Overall, this suggests that closing schools can have adverse transitional effects for students in closed schools, but these effects can be offset by relocation to schools with stronger academic performance. Moreover, there is no evidence that the influx of new students has negative achievement implications for the students in the receiving schools.

The results suggest that if a district needs to close schools, then closing low performing schools and transferring students to higher performing schools can minimize any adverse effects.

Does this support the argument to keep Scenario 3 off the school closure list? Should Silverwood be closed under these assumptions? Should the District implement more programs like Monte Gardens and Sequoia in order to provide more successful school alternatives?


School Closures – What makes the most sense?

Theresa Harrington reported online today that the School Closure Committee has come up with potential scenarios for closing schools. The committee has put together 10 options and the “Superintendent’s Council” has offered an 11th. What do you think of the choices?

1 – 1: GLENBROOK (to El Dorado, Oak Grove, Valley View);
SILVERWOOD (to Ayers, Mountain View, Highlands);
HOLBROOK (to Wren, Sun Terrace, Monte Gardens, Westwood);
Savings: $1,504,453

1 – 2: SILVERWOOD (see above);
HOLBROOK (see above);
EL MONTE (to Wren, Westwood, Woodside);
GREGORY GARDENS (to Hidden Valley, Fair Oaks, Valhalla);
Savings: $1,738,320

2- 1: GLENBROOK (to El Dorado, Oak Grove, Valley View);
WREN AVENUE (to El Monte, Holbrook, Monte Gardens, Westwood);
SILVERWOOD (to Ayers, Mountain View, Highlands);
Savings: $1,533,504

2- 2: WREN AVENUE (see 2-1 above);
SHORE ACRES (to Rio Vista, Bel Air and possibly Delta View);
SILVERWOOD (see 2-1 above);
GREGORY GARDENS (to Sequoia Elem, which becomes partial neighborhood school like Monte Gardens; Hidden Valley, Valhalla);
Savings: $1,819,386

3-1: SEQUOIA ELEM. (to home schools);
SEQUOIA MIDDLE SCHOOL (to home schools);
WREN AVENUE (to El Monte, Holbrook, Monte Gardens, Westwood);
Savings: $1,607,769

3- 2: FAIR OAKS (to Bancroft, Cambridge, Strandwood);
SHORE ACRES (to Bel Air, Delta View, Riverview and Rio Vista, which all become K-8);
OAK GROVE (to Foothill, El Dorado, Pleasant Hill and other surrounding if necessary);
Savings: $1,543,916

4- 1: SEQUOIA ELEM. (to home schools);
AYERS ELEM. (to Silverwood, Highlands, Mountain View);
MONTE GARDENS (to home schools, residents to Westwood, Wren);
FAIR OAKS (to Pleasant Hill Elem., Gregory Gardens, Bancroft):
Savings: $,685,242

4- 2: SEQUOIA ELEM. (to home schools);
SEQUOIA MIDDLE (to home schools);
MONTE GARDENS ELEM. (to home schools, residents to Westwood, Wren Ave.);
Savings: $1,563,095

5- 1: WREN AVENUE (to El Monte, Westwood);
SILVERWOOD ELEM. (to Ayers, Highlands);
GREGORY GARDENS ELEM. (to Valhalla, Strandwood);
BANCROFT (to Fair Oaks, Walnut Acres, Woodside, Valle Verde);
HOLBROOK (to Sun Terrace);
RIO VISTA (to Shore Acres, Bel Air);
Savings: $2,761,978

5- 2: GLENBROOK MIDDLE (to Oak Grove, El Dorado);
plus any two elementary schools from scenario 5-1;
Savings: $1,470,929 – $1,615,613, depending on which elementary schools are chosen

Superintendent’s Council recommendation:
OAK GROVE (to 6-12 campus at Ygnacio Valley HS);
GLENBROOK (to 6-12 campus at Mt. Diablo HS);
Convert Riverview Middle School to 6-12 campus;
Savings: approximately $1.5 million

For the full story Contra Costa Times or On Assignment

We don’t want what we have, so what do we want?

I read the local blogs and often you can find me responding to various posts about MDUSD. Today I wanted to use those blogs as inspiration to post on Voice.  I would like to find a way to harness all this outrage and the disappointment into something positive.  I am reading comments about replacing the Board, firing the Superintendent, firing the new personnel director, uniting parents at Mt. Diablo Elementary to demand a quality Principal, etc…


There are approximately 32,000 students in this school district with an estimated 40,000 parents.  That easily makes us the largest stakeholder in this district. We should have a louder voice than any other constituency.  Take a page from Bancroft or MDE and be heard.

We know we don’t like what we are getting, so….


I will start the list.

  1. Clear, Honest, and Regular Communication – this means a Monday Memo with important and/or interesting information about our district.  This communication should be used to inform and to begin to build a community partnership.
  2. Vision – A vision to improve the quality of education in this district.  A vision that is backed up with a strategic plan that encompasses input from all stakeholders and provides the structure for sound decision making when reorganizing, cutting budgets, making expenditures, and a myriad of day to day decisions.


Continue reading

WCCSD considering a parcel tax, should MDUSD?

Last September West Contra Costa School District polled their community to determine if a parcel tax was feasible and found only 56% of voters would support a parcel tax measure (67% required). They chose not to pursue a parcel tax measure.

Last November Mt. Diablo Unified School District polled their community to determine if a parcel tax was feasible and found only 59% of voters would support a parcel tax measure (67% required). They chose not to pursue a parcel tax measure.

In June 2010 WCCSD pursued a $380 million bond measure instead and was successful.
In June 2010 MDUSD pursued a $348 million bond measure instead and was successful.

The WCCSD cumulative cost to taxpayers of all outstanding bond measures is $239/$100,000 of assessed value. In addition, WCCSD has a $72 parcel tax for facility maintenance and improvements. They also have a second parcel tax of 7.2 cents per square foot equating to $108 per 1,500 square foot home for educational programs, libraries, athletics, and teachers.

The MDUSD cumulative cost to taxpayers of all outstanding bond measures is $60/$100,000 of assessed value. In addition, MDUSD has a $67/parcel Mello-Roos tax used to fund a $90 million dollar facilities bond. MDUSD does not have a parcel tax to save or restore educational programs, libraries, athletics, and teachers.

This week the WCCSD school board approved going forward with polling to determine support for another parcel tax in November.

Should MDUSD pursue a parcel tax?

West Contra Costa schools to gauge support for November parcel tax

Is Strategic Planning Still as Important as it was in 2008?

Superintendent Lawrence has recently indicated a desire to set goals and objectives rather than embark on the task of strategic planning. What does that mean? How does it differ from strategic planning? Will stakeholders be involved?
This week the Superintendent made a decision to move a Principal and then not move a Principal. This week the Board was faced with stalled and contentious union negotiations. School closures appear on the horizon, as well as $348 million dollars worth of facility improvements. The May revise means $1.5 million more in budget cuts. How will our district leadership know the best path to navigate without the compass provided through strategic planning?

According to J.M. Bryson author of Strategic Planning for Public and Nonprofit Organizations (1995), strategic planning is:

“a disciplined effort to produce fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization is, what it does and why it does it. To deliver the best results, strategic planning requires broad yet effective information gathering, development and exploration of strategic alternatives, and an emphasis on future implications of present decisions.”

In difficult budgetary times like those facing our district today, strategic planning is more critical then ever. How can our district leadership make decisions with respect to expenditures, cuts, and reform without a clear vision for the future?

February 2008 Paul Strange – Clayton Pioneer

“The governor’s budget (proposal) is devastating to our district,” Strange added. “If that becomes the budget, we will have to cut some $14 million in one year alone. For me, maybe the main issue is that the district has no strategic planning – no strategic plan.”

In 2008 strategic planning was a major topic amongst some members of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District Board of Education and amongst those seeking (re)election to the board. The lack of strategic planning was presented as a fundamental reason for the 2008 board minority request that Superintendent Gary McHenry resign.

May 2008 Paul Strange – MDUSD Blog

“Our readers are undoubtedly aware that one of the reasons Mr. Eberhart and I have called for the Superintendent to resign is that the Superintendent (and the majority of the board) have refused to engage in a strategic planning process. Mr. Eberhart and I have been pushing for strategic planning for some time and the board has told us no.”

Fall 2008 Sherry Whitmarsh campaign website

“Our district needs a rolling strategic plan for the next 3 – 5 years. This plan needs to be developed through collaboration among all members of the MDUSD community which includes administration, teachers, office managers, custodians, students, parents, special education instructors, business leaders, and community members. A strategic plan will give our district direction and purpose. It will guide us as we proceed through times of economic crisis and economic growth. It will help all parents, employees, and community members understand the mission, vision and goals of the district.”

November 2008 Gary Eberhart – Ballot Statement Re-election Campaign

The Board must assert its leadership role in bringing all stakeholders together to begin the process of establishing a strategic plan for our district. Every teacher, administrator, custodian, clerical employee, all other employees, parents, and all students should know what the vision of our school district is. We need to plan for our future and control the destiny of our district. Our students can no longer afford for our district to only be reactionary. We must have a vision and a plan for student success. We must anticipate the challenges that we will face and plan for those challenges.

Is a strategic plan still important to our board members? If yes, how will they reconcile strategic planning with setting “goals and objectives”? When will this happen? …before $348 million of Measure C money is spent? …before the school closure list is completed? Shouldn’t this be a priority?

Ironic… What are we voting for?

While conducting research for an upcoming post I came across this article from 2004 and thought it was ironic enough to be shared.

The Contra Costa Times
Jackie Burrell

… The dispute eventually led Superintendent Gary McHenry to ask the board if it had confidence in his leadership.

At issue is $8.9 million in capital funding from 2002’s Measure C, targeted for middle and high school vocational technology centers. But trustees also are troubled by differing interpretations of a technological vision that was never spelled out in the first place…

….Trustees Linda Mayo and Richard Allen confessed reservations but said they felt that halting the project now would hurt students.

Trustee Gary Eberhart, who cast the lone vote against funding the program, had no such compunctions.

“I’m not going to be boxed into a corner, ” he said. “This is an issue near and dear to my heart, but if I don’t know what it is (we’re voting on), I’m not going to support it.”

I think Gary Eberhart sums it up nicely.

Like Board Member Eberhart’s decision making process at that board meeting six years ago, on Tuesday voters in this community should not feel boxed into a corner regarding this 2010 Bond Measure C. While the article above is not about an election it is reflective on many levels of how we are made to believe if we oppose a program, or in our case a bond measure, that is not well-planned, clear, or prudent then we are somehow voting against children. This could not be further from the truth.


Cost: $1.87 BILLION

Interest: Of the $1.87 BILLION $1.5 Billion is interest and will never reach our schools or classrooms

Term: 42 years – The seniors from the Class of 2010 will be 60 years old and the technology, solar, and air conditioning will have been long since gone.

Solar: The election is in 4 days and there is still no analysis for the solar project available on the district web site for the community to view. The solar project is the district’s highest priority, largest, and most expensive project planned with the proceeds from this Measure C ($68 million).
Dr. Lawrence, Gary Eberhart, Paul Strange, and Pete Pederson have all quoted different revenue numbers. No one, including voters, seems to know revenues, expenses, timeline, or the return on investment for this solar project.

Project Lists: Posted school site project lists were developed from the 2002 Measure C list with no time for community input. Some school lists include projects that have already been completed. The posted project lists do not adequately reflect the promises outlined in campaign literature. Items on the list such as middle school science clusters have not been defined. Why aren’t these called science labs, a term for which parents are familiar? What is instructional technology? Tech support was cut last spring and professional development is at risk, how will our teacher’s be trained and supported with this new technology? Technology to support engineering, biotech, computer programming, and electronics, how will we fund these classes where they do not yet exist? Where is the strategic plan that guides clear decision making with respect to expenditures, cuts, and new programs?

Reinstated Programs:
The literature says this bond will help restore programs. To date there is no priority list for reinstating programs.

4 members of the CUES committee left the committee and oppose the 2010 Measure C.
Only 4 of 16 members of the 2002 Measure C Oversight Committee support the 2010 Measure C.
The Contra Costa Times is not endorsing the 2010 Measure C and is recommending a “no” vote.

Today, as parents and voters, we are in a position to say, “I need more information, better planning, and a better bond structure before I can vote yes.” Ironic.

Strategic Planning versus Goals and Objectives – What is the difference?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about strategic planning and the importance of such planning when it comes to our school district and the education of our children. Our new Superintendent, Dr. Lawrence, has indicated a desire to set goals and objectives rather than embark on the task of strategic planning. Sherry Whitmarsh seems to support this idea in her blog comment on MDUSD Parent.

I am curious as to how our district leadership defines the difference. The California School Board Association states, “Of all the responsibilities of governing boards, none is more central to the purpose of local governance than ensuring that a long-term vision is established for the school system. The vision reflects the consensus of the entire board, the superintendent and district staff, and the community as to what the students need in order to achieve their highest potential. The vision should set a clear direction for the school district, driving every aspect of the district’s program.”

The last sentence of the above paragraph speaks directly to my prior post. How can our district continue to make crucial decisions with respect to expenditures, budget cuts, staffing, etc… without a strategic plan and if they are going to pursue “plans and objectives” instead, what is the difference?