Monday, March 28, 2011

Fraser mumblings

The Frasier Institute rankings (possibly the only thing hated by educators more than media coverage of Education Quality and Accountability Office results) were released on the weekend, with exclusive day one coverage by the Toronto Sunday Sun. The Sun's copy was picked up by most of the other Ontario papers in the chain for Monday editions, as the province's two Suns in Toronto and Ottawa are the only papers in the chain that have Sunday editions.
The writers over at Our Kids Blog also took a stab at the coverage, in a piece that scratched a little deeper below the surface than the lead article in the Sun coverage did.
The Sun's take on the results is that despite billions more in K-12 education-sector spending the EQAO results upon which the rankings are based haven't seen a corollary increase.
But with all the extra money that has gone into schools under Premier Dalton McGuinty — he's ramped up spending to $20.2 billion in 2009-10 from $14.4 billion in 2002-03 in his quest to be the Education Premier — the results are thin, (the Institute's Michael) Thomas said.
"If that's going on, we would expect to see more than a slow steady increase," he said.
"I can't make any sense of the extra money that's going into education, where it's going, what initiatives. It seems to be a little bit more unfocused, than spending before."
The Sun coverage drew a quick response from the minister, whose office sent out an open letter to the Frasier Institute by e-mail on Monday. I've tossed the e-mail up on my GoogleDocs.
I remember the days I used to write Frasier Institute report articles. Then I got busy with other beats and, armed with the knowledge no local school officials would comment meaningfully on the results, was happy to let the provincial coverage take the day.
Just as there are in EQAO results and the Society for Quality Education's Sunshine on Schools, there is value in the Frasier Institute data. It's what's done with the data that matters-- FI uses it to rank schools, fairly or not.
The ministry and boards use EQAO data to help make decisions on programming and resources.
As to the Sun's point -- billions more for little results -- given most of the increases went to wages and benefits, I'm OK with that for the moment. It'll be a different conversation when an increasing number of teachers are in the $100K club (coming soon to every school board near you thanks to agreements currently in place) but given their role I'm OK with that for now as well.


Anonymous said...

you don't need to be a supporter of a right-wing think tank to figure out that McGuinty has pulled a fast one on Ontarians.

Educating fewer students shouldn't cost more or use more people to manage.

Heard mentioned today that McGuinty's increased spending on the public service by 90.3% and those number 1 million people.
(not just education mind you....but that's exactly why we're tanking).

Oh and guess what Dalton's got in his budget according to leaky sources - increased corp. taxes, prisons and privatization.

That's almost a Conservative budget. Poor Ignatieff's message is toast.

John L said...

I suspect part of the problem was that McGuinty, in his zeal to be the "Education Premier" simply poured oodles of money into education without having a clear understanding of which areas would provide the most value. On a personal note I've always been a little sceptical of the claim that a class of 20 kids in the junior grades provides much increased value relative to a class of 21 or 22 kids. I suspect incremental changes downward in class size is more for puble consumption, smaller is better, than any real benefit. Then you add in the increase in split classes, classroom builing projects to accomodate more small classes, etc.

It appears to be a case of more nice than neceamerssary, particularly when we hear of funding shortfalls in other areas of education.

Education Reporter said...

I don't sense any funding boondoggles here. The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariate and the EQAO have both received (overall) passing grades from the auditor general.

Teachers were added to the primary grades for the class cap. Teaching principals in most every school were eliminated and a full-time presence of admin/secretarial/custodial staff was added.

The last round of collective agreements was a big-dollar item, no question. As I've stated here before, I think a principal (given the requirements to qualify for the job today) is worth $100K. Teachers, I'm still warming up to.

Funding has continued to increase while student enrolment declines. However the cost of education each student has risen due to some of the factors above. The system could always use more money-- special education seems to be an area where no matter how much a board throws at it the demand always outstrips supply. Utilities have been roller-coaster budget items the last few years, making it challenging to fund the costs of heat and hydro.

When the ministry attempts to squeeze costs in other areas -- school bus transportation for one -- by moving to bigger operators that can offer service at a lower cost, the locals complain they can't compete and we get into semantics over who offers better service.

Pupatello tried to tell boards they couldn't keep delaying accommodation decisions, but for the most part they did. Adjusting space to meet actual enrolment won't shrink the budget to pre-McGuinty days, but it will help stabilize funding as we stop paying for empty pupil places. However even that often requires capital funding (complete with its annual financing payments) for the renovations, expansions and new builds related to school consolidations.

Lastly, let's not forget that when we looked at the 2010-11 grants and subtracted capital spending, several boards' operating budgets dropped from 2009-10 to reflect falling enrolment.

Which is why, overall, I don't like dollars-to-test-scores comparisons. They cannot adequately compensate for all the factors involved between an almost $20-billion budget and stable EQAO scores.


Anonymous said...

Hugo, just curious what "value" you see in the Fraser report? Best I can tell, there's no original research done here... they simply take existing EQAO data and re-process it through some convoluted formula to arrive at some inane conclusions about school rankings. IMHO it oversimplifies what should be a very complex discussion. But I suppose thats what people should expect for a right wing thinktank.

Anonymous said...

There's a difference between an audit for financial purposes and a value-for-money audit. Just because goverment agencies and departments pass financial audits (meaning there are no improprieties i.e. policy is followed), doesn't mean that their work translates into efficiencies or improvements in achievment.

TDSBteacher said...

Just to point out that for some boards, especially the larger urban ones, only a minority of schools are included in the rankings. Because the study includes exclusively schools with both Grade 3 and Grade 6 EQAO results, the large number of K-5 schools and smaller but significant number of 6-8 schools, are not represented. For the TDSB as an example, that would be the majority of elementary schools which are missing from the analysis.

Anonymous said...

excuse me but with the number of people manning that secretariat we students should be doing MUCH better than they are.

I agree with anon. 16:07 re: type of audit conducted.

We need to get rid of the bloated bureaucracy - that means at MOE and school boards.