On June 18, the Maryland Department of Education approved a contract with APA Consulting to conduct a comprehensive school finance adequacy study. Picus Odden and Associates partnered with APA on this project and is a major subcontractor. Our firm will conduct an Evidence-Based adequacy analysis for the state, and use the results, in conjunction with the results of two other adequacy methods, to propose a new “base” foundation expenditure per pupil level, together with weights for students from poverty, ELL students and students with disabilities. The project also will conduct studies of improving schools in multiple contexts.
On June 2, 2014, Picus Odden and Associates’ Principal Partner Allan Odden met with the Interim Education Funding Committee of the North Dakota Legislature to present the final report on the recalibration of North Dakota’s funding formula.
Of many findings in the report, the recommendations include increasing the Foundation Per Student number (the base adequacy level) from $8,810 to $9,247 and increasing the at-risk student weight, to provide extra help to struggling students from poverty and ELL backgrounds, from 0.05 to 0.20 plus a summer school weight of 0.6.
During the last week of March, Picus Odden and Associates’ lead partners, Lawrence O. Picus and Allan Odden, met with a dozen school business officials and superintendents in each of two meetings in Bismarck and West Fargo, North Dakota.
The purpose of the meetings was to garner local feedback on several technical issues related to the firm’s recalibration work: pupil weights for at-risk students, ELL students, students with disabilities, summer school and home school supervision. The groups also discussed an appropriate fringe benefit rate for staff benefits and the district portion of employee health care costs, school staffing focusing on instructional coaches, and small district adjustments.
The input will be included in a final report that will be discussed by the Legislative Interim Committee on Education Funding in Grand Forks, North Dakota on June 2, 2014.
Picus Odden and Associates began a school finance adequacy study in Kentucky early in 2014, working with the Kentucky School Finance Adequacy Advisory Committee. The Committee has already met twice and plans to meet again on May 12. The project is being led by Picus Odden & Associates Senior Associate, Michael Goetz.
To supplement the diverse representation of stakeholders on the Committee, Mike Goetz and Adriane Williams took a three day tour of the state to seek input from teachers and business leaders. They spent April 16 in Hazard (East), April 17 in Madisonville (West), and April 18 in Louisville, home to the largest student population in the state. The diversity of opinions offered by these roughly 30 teachers and 6 business leaders will be integral in developing the final recommendations for the State.
The Peninsula K-8 School in coastal Maine is another fascinating case of rural school improvement. A product of multiple district’s consolidating, this new school opened in 2009; about 2/3 of its students qualify for free and reduced price lunch (FRL).
Among other strategies, it has a common reading and math curriculum K-8, organizes teachers into collaborate work groups, and has a “watch” list for any student performing in the bottom half, who first get individual tutoring, then small group tutoring, and then extended day and summer school extra help. Results are especially impressive for the FRL students.
Etna-Dixmont PK-8 School served 256 students in grades PK-8 during the 2013-2014 school year. The school is located in a mid-Maine rural community that has experienced economic decline as mills, a tannery and a large MBNA calling center exited the area over the past decade.
As a result, the unemployment and poverty rates are high. Sixty-eight percent of students qualify for free or reduced priced lunch, a number that has been on the rise in recent years, even though school enrollments have held steady.
Despite these conditions, student performance has improved dramatically in several subject areas and multiple grade levels. This case tells how Etna-Dixmont made these impressive performance gains.
Most cases of schools that dramatically improve student performance profile urban or suburban schools. Central Aroostook Jr High School is located in rural, northern Maine, up close to the Canadian border. What the school has done is fascinating, and reflects the strategy for improvement that is embedded in the firm’s Evidence-Based adequacy model.
On January 27, 2014, Allan Odden, Principal Partner in Picus Odden and Associates, served as the keynote speaker for the winter meeting of North Dakota’s Council of Education Leaders in Bismarck, ND. His topic was an overview of the school finance adequacy recalibration study the firm conducted for the state’s legislature.
The next day, January 28, he met with the Legislature’s Interim Committee on Education Funding to present the first part of the study, which uses the Evidence-Based Adequacy model he and Lawrence O. Picus at the University of Southern California have developed to recalibrate the state’s Expenditure Per Pupil figure used in its school foundation formula.
Lawrence O. Picus prepared a framing paper and moderated a school funding symposium hosted by Vermont’s Governor, Senate President Pro Tem and Speaker of the House at St. Michael’s College in Colchester on January 14.
The symposium included a six-member expert panel discussion and several small group work sessions designed to evaluate possible options for the State of Vermont’s financing system and its fairness to students and taxpayers.
VTDigger.org: Effort begins to re-evaluate education financing in Vermont
On December 10, Larry Picus, Allan Odden and Mike Goetz met with the Maine Interim Committee on Education and Culture to review the final report of the firm’s study of the adequacy of Maine’s school funding system. The report led to much discussion and two excellent articles in the Maine press. See
The Portland Press Herald: Maine panel gets proposals to revamp education
The Bangor Daily News: Report sought by Republicans says Maine should increase …