Thursday, April 2, 2009

Some template lovin'

Take a look at these valuation templates completed by the staff capital plan co-ordinating committee at the Thames Valley District School Board. As per the procedure, the board has produced a set of "pre" and "post" templates for an accommodation review committee in Woodstock. The staff recommendation is to close one school and consolidate at three other sites.
In combing through these, you can see how the board is trying to support the increased student outcomes that would be achieved by closing the one school, adding an addition onto another and program upgrades and small additions to the other two. There are a few interesting tidbits to these templates that leave one wondering.
Let's look at one school that has both a pre- and post-scenario template, Northdale Public School.
It might help to right-click and open these in new tabs or windows for this comparison.
On page one of the pre template, items F.4 and F.7 show the school doesn't have a primary activity room (a smaller version of a gymnasium) and that its general arts / instrumental music room rates a "needs improvement." The current board program standards call for elementary schools to have activity rooms to ensure students are meeting provincial Quality Daily Physical Activity mandates and to provide a larger gymnasium suitable for 13-year-olds. Similarly, its program standard calls for a 1,000-square-foot instrumental music / general arts room that would be setup for multipurpose visual, dramatic and musical arts.
Looking to page one of the post template, if you look at the same fields, these two items have changed from "not applicable" and "needs improvement" to "excellent" on both counts. This is part of the $307,000 figure (I.14 in the pre template) staff cite would be required to bring Northdale up to current program standards. In the post template this work has been completed and the template reflects that in its cumulative score.
There's another part that could be missed here-- in Section C of the template. In the pre template, it shows the school meeting expecations for Grade 3 math, Grade 6 reading and Grade 6 reading in the 2007-08 EQAO tests. "Meeting expectations" means the provincial standard of 75 per cent of students earning a Level 3 on that component of the EQAO test. For the unitiated, a Level 3 is roughly equivalent to a B or 70 per cent. Under the post template, which takes a large portion of students from the school proposed for closure and moves them into Northdale, the results of those students in the same 2007-08 EQAO test would have Northdale NOT meeting expectations in those same three areas. This isn't unique to Northdale as the other school Hillcrest students could attend which met expectations in 2007-08 Grade 3/6 EQAO results also does not meet these same standards once the Hillcrest students are merged into the existing student body on the template. For the record, the other school that may receive students didn't meet expectations in any of the relevant categories.
Add to that the money involved. The templates show the cost of bringing the four existing schools up to snuff (J.1) is a cumulative $3,523,000. By closing the school, shuffling students around and building/renovating spaces at the remaining three facilities, the cost is estimated at $4,985,000.
There are some questions just dying to be asked here-- why spend more money to build an environment that could produce lower EQAO ("student outcome") results? What other reasons are there for proposing this consolidation -- flexibility in staffing? Other pressures?
This committee should have an interesting time and stay tuned to see if these questions are asked and answered, and whether the information in the provided templates drives committee members to come up with recommendations falling outside the norm.
This little exercise also shows just how these templates can be a treasure trove of information...