More Rural School Improvement

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.

Another Impressive Example of Rural School Improvement

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.

Rural School Improvement

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.

Odden meets with North Dakota Legislators & School Superintendents

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.

A Re-Evaluation of Education Financing in Vermont

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.  Effort begins to re-evaluate education financing in Vermont


Final Report: Maine Interim Committee on Education and Culture

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

Picus Odden starting Kentucky Adequacy Study

Picus Odden and Associates is in the process of developing a study of the adequacy of Kentucky’s school funding system, working under contract with the Council for Better Education.  Senior Associate Michael Goetz will direct the project, which will use the firm’s Evidence-Based model to assess adequacy and build on the firm’s analyses of Kentucky’s education system conducted in the early 1990s.  Results should be available in the second half of 2014.

See article:

Meeting with Maine’s Interim Education Committee

The Picus Odden report on school finance reform, using the Evidence Based Model, received a good response by the Interim Education Committee meeting on October 29, 2013.

An article published in Maine’s, Bangor Daily News reported,

“Members of the Legislature’s Education Committee on Tuesday focused on what the best possible education system in Maine should look like, while deferring what is sure to be a contentious debate about how to pay for it.”

The final report for Maine’s Interim Education Committee is due on the 1st of December.

Teacher Compensation Handbook

In 2007, we developed a teacher compensation handbook for state and local policymakers that identified the steps needed to redesign teacher salary schedules, from those today based on years if experience and education units to one based on effectiveness teacher expertise.

Since that time, states and districts have developed new teacher evaluation systems that produce effectiveness metrics that can be used to operate the new types of salary schedules discussed in the handbook.  We also are in the process of updating that handbook to reflect this phenomenon as well as additional knowledge acquired over the last five years with state and local experimentation with new salary elements.

With that said, the handbook still serves as a good starting point for places considering how to redesign teacher salary schedules.

How to Boost Student Learning

Odden’s 2009 book, Ten Strategies for Doubling Student Performance, Corwin Press, provides another articulation of how such resources can be transformed into school improvement strategies that boost student learning and close achievement gaps.

            Our many studies of individual schools in states across the country provide additional examples.  The following are good exemplars:

            Abbottsford Elementary School (Wisconsin)

            Colchester High School (Vermont)

            Monroe Elementary School (Wisconsin)

            Montgomery Elementary School (Vermont)

            White River Elementary School (Vermont)

For additional cases, see Chapter 1 of Allan Odden and Sarah Archibald, Doubling Student Performance …. and finding the resources to do it, Corwin Press (2009).