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Arlington Schools Among Region’s Top Spenders on Administration

by ARLnow.com July 29, 2010 at 3:30 pm 1,546 13 Comments

On a per student basis, Arlington is spending more on administrative functions and less on instruction than almost every other school district in Northern Virginia, reports Michael Lee Pope of the Arlington Connection.

Here’s an excerpt:

Alexandria and Arlington spend less for instruction per capita than every other school division in Northern Virginia. And the two jurisdictions spend more on administration per capita than most other localities in the region.

These are the findings of a recent report issued by the Auditor of Public Accounts in Virginia, numbers collected from various jurisdictions during their annual budget process. School officials and elected leaders in Alexandria and Arlington admit they might not have the economy of scale of Fairfax County, a division with about 170,000 students. But with 20,000 students in Arlington and 12,000 students in Alexandria, they say the trade-off is a more personalized environment.

“Am I satisfied? No. I always think we can do better,” said Arlington School Board Chairwoman Libby Garvey. “But I will say that I think we deliver a very good value for the dollar.”

“There’s a general perception that more money in the classroom is more critical than money for administration,” said John Vigstadt, a member of the Arlington Council of PTAs. “I think we need to take periodic look at what these administrators do to make sure all these positions are justified.”

Read the rest of the article here.

  • JimPB

    Whenever bureaucratic can, it grows. Time for wacking back to the muscle and bone.

    What ARLCO public schools (all schools, really) need is to use the extent research so that policies and practices are evidence-based. This has transformed medicine. It can do the same for education. But the research must be consulted, assessed and then implemented with fidelity to the science findings.

    Three examples of powerful reseaerch findings that should be implemented, and now:

    1. Adolescent development is such that they go to sleep later and get up later. School schedules should reflect this biological fact. When school policies do, alertness and engagement in morning classes increases, as, in turn, do grades (the increase ins meaningful) Put academics appropriate first. Make the change in school hours.

    2. Early and effective prervention is best — and for disadvantaged yoiuth evidence-based early intervention can bring them, on average, to the main stream: For example, average IQs of 100 and educational achievement at 4th grade at grade level. How? In-home visiting 20 hrs./wk berween 8 mos. and 3 years to develop vocabulary (correlates .9 with verbal IQ), See Betty Hart and Todd Risley’s small, data packed but highly readable book, Meaningful Differences, for details. Put intervention dollars for disadvantaged students where it pays off, and pays off really big.

    3. Effecetive teachers make a big difference, and it shows in various ways, including in greatly increased subsequent earnings. Follow Rhee and D.C. Recognise highly effective teachers with a substantial increase in compensation and send the ineffective teachers to other pursuits. Put this in place this year.

    • Not Mike

      I’m not sure I follow the medicine example. How has that helped improve medicine or lower health care costs? Other industrialized countries have better health care than here.

      I’m fine with your # 1 and # 2 suggestions, but to suggest we need a Rhee to purge ineffective teachers is really silly, as no one suggests APS has many incompetent teachers.

      • JimPB

        Hi, Not Mike:

        100 years ago physicians had skills of cutting bones and letting blood, patent medicine and sympathy to offer. Folks generally avoided doctors fearing rightly that the doctor could do more harm than good — and would take their money, too.

        Today, physicians offer skills and a vast array of science-based diagnostic tools and treatments. In my 60 years of awareness of medical practice, there’s been a transformation, almost entirely for the good. Sixty years ago I would almost certainly have died, after surring many impairments, from a benigh growth in the balance nerve in my left ear that, unchecked, would eventually crush my brain stem. With an MRI, the tumor was diagnosed (and pin-pointed), and with modern sedatives and micro-neuro surgery the tumor was removed safely. 60 years ago an Aunt had cataract surgery. Lengthy procedure. Long recovery time lying horizontal in bed. Coke glasses afterwards. My cataracts were removed in a few minutes and inplants (prociding a full correction based on a pre-surgery technological assessment of the correction I needed) inserted in a brief out-patient procedure from which we went to celebratory lunches. I only wore an eye cover at night for a week. Just two of many examples of how science and technology has transformed medicine, and overwhelmingly for the good.

        The same transformation is possible for education.

      • JimPB

        Hi, Not Mike:

        We have no data on how many highly effective, somewhat effective and ineffective teachers ARLCO public school has. It would be amazing if there weren’t teachers in each category. It would be great to see data on outcomes that reflect effectiveness of individual teachers, then for ARLCO schools to act to increase the number of highly effective teachers with the goal of every teacher being highly effective.

        As for the system as a whole. Is the primary outcome (educational achievement) what one would predict from parental education and SES, IQ of students, etc., or is the primary outcome better than expected (the system is adding value) or worse than expected (harming students). Better to go beyond the overall performance of ARLCO schools to the performance of groups. How are ARLCO schools doing for various groups of students such as students for whom English is not their first and primary language, the intellectually gifted, disadvantaged, learning disabled?

  • K

    “All four Arlington high schools were ranked in the top two percent of high schools in the nation according to this year’s Newsweek rankings.” – Newsweek, Jan. 2010

    Why fix what isn’t broken?

    • JR

      because schools ranked higher than arlington spend less per student and certainly less for administrative expenses. this is supposed to be about the kids, not bureaucracy or teachers.

    • JimPB

      Top rated, yes. But that doesn’t mean that the achievement attained couldn’t be higher. Given the international compeition our youth and country increasingly face, we must aim for higher achievement. Adjusting the school day to the biology of adolescent sleep needs would be one big step in that important direction.

      And top ranked for disadvantaged students? The ARLCO schools may be trying, but there is no research support for their doing particularly well. One
      evidence-basaed action that ARLCO schools could take is focus on having students on task and lengthen the school day, school week and school year. More time at work means more learning. And the disadvantaged have a big learning gap to close if they are to be compete successfully for better paying jobs and ebable our work force to be internationally competitive.

      There’s a lot to fix and improve.

  • Efrem

    Arlington gets the maximum bang for the taxpayers buck by indoctrinating innocent school children into brain dead progressives that emerge from high school, for the most part, hating America and feeling they deserve to be part of the ruling class that intends to destroy this once great republic and rebuild it into a progressive urban village paradise with them having as much control over our lives as they can garner.

    They are taught to blame George Bush for the leftist fraud known as global warming, they are given condoms and cucumbers to practice advanced biology and are told that a homosexual relationhsip between Dan and Don equates to a married Tom and Mary and the child they gave birth to instead of murdering it through an abortion method that progressives call a mere choice.

    Oh yes, Arlington is a progressive paradise with GREAT schools!

    • Sleuthing

      Efrem, you’ve been awfully silent on all the threads exposing the rampant problems with the change of government petition!

  • Efrem

    They tried, indeed erred in the process, but they at least attempted to exercise their constitutional right to petition the government for redress of their grievances.

    To the dismay of many Arlington progressives like you, the U.S. Constitution still applies.

    This is not like a petition to change the corporate boundaries of Norfolk, Nebraska for example, this was an effort to bring a much needed change to a progressive cesspool with a governing body that couldn’t find their way out of a wet grocery bag.

    You can frolic in the joy of the COG defeat and sip glass after glass of Boones Farm Strawberry Hill with Chris Zimmerman in Walter Tejada’s garage on that sofa donated by the ACDC, but this will have an impact on the progressive oasis that you call paradise.

  • MC

    The articles says Arlington spends $30 more than Fairfax per student on administration, but overall spends less per student than Fairfax. Is Arlington less efficient spending money than Fairfax, or more efficient? Unfortunately, there is no reliable model of absolute spending on administration and absolute spending on instructions relative to school outcomes like test scores to say. If Arlington can spend less overall than Fairfax and still have well rated schools, I am missing the significance of this debate.

  • Let’s Be Free

    APS could get rid of half of the Assistant Superintendent positions and the schools wouldn’t miss a beat. Indeed, the principals would be better off for not having to spending so much time playing internal politics and bobbing and weaving to serve multiple masters.

  • Ray

    Arlington schools already start later in the day than most neighboring districts. HB Woodlawn doesn’t start until 9:15, I believe. Considering I know schools that start at 7:30 I think Arlington is doing pretty well by its kids.

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