IT IS NOW 2018, WHAT HAS CHANGED?
What follows are excerpts from the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies (NHCPPS) entitled Manchester’s Education Benchmarks: Using data to map a pathway to success, September 2014. The New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies is an independent, nonpartisan organization that pursues data-based research on public policy matters, develops options, informs policy makers and advises them about choices for action.
The future of Manchester’s school system has implications for every aspect of the city’s life: economic vitality, civic life, health and well-being of its residents, and beyond. More broadly, Manchester’s schools are a vital piece of the statewide education system, as roughly 8 percent of all public school students in New Hampshire go to school in Manchester, the largest share for a single district. Manchester’s schools are vibrant places, full of positive stories and innovative approaches to education. More than 70 languages are spoken by city students, and the student body is among the most diverse in Northern New England. The data NHCPPS collected is just a beginning, but it starts to illustrate the interrelation of numerous trends in Manchester over the past decade. The answer to the challenges described here will require some blend of approaches, likely involving curriculum and instructional changes, incentives to attract the next generation of teachers, partnerships with community groups and businesses, and budgetary responses. The question now facing district leaders is how to harness the strengths of the district’s changing demographics, while adopting new policies to address the challenges the schools are still facing to provide the education Manchester students deserve.
- Improving public understanding of the challenges facing Manchester’s children should be a priority for the city’s leaders.
- Disparities in student success persist at many levels and few show any trend toward closing.
- These “achievement gaps” between student subgroups (including racial/ethnic background, economic status, disability status, and English-language learner status) can be seen in many measurements: early school readiness, standardized test scores, high school graduation rates, and post-secondary performance, among others. In many cases, the gaps between student subpopulations have remained steady for years, or are actually growing. In some cases, the district’s achievement gaps are wider than the comparable gaps at the state and/or national levels. The student achievement gap is widening.
- Manchester’s overall demographic trend is cause for concern. With rising levels of child poverty and low-income status among students, and growing numbers of births to low-income, single mothers, the long-term demographic pressures on the district demand the attention of policymakers.
- Roughly 8 percent of all public school students in New Hampshire go to school in Manchester, the largest share for a single district.
- More than 70 languages are spoken by city students, and the student body is among the most diverse in Northern New England.
- Across the district, there is great variation in the low-income student population from school to school.
- The share of students eligible for free/reduced meals last year ranged from 90 percent at Beech Street Elementary School to 23 at Green Acres Elementary School. The district wide rate was 51 percent last year, close to twice the statewide rate of 28 percent.
- As the number of low-income students has been rising in Manchester, the district’s student body has been growing more diverse in terms of racial and ethnic composition.
- The percent of students that are non-white and/or Hispanic (including African American, Asian, Hispanic, Native American or multi-racial) has increased from 20 percent of the student population to 35 percent over the past eight years.
- New Hampshire’s statewide non-white student population rose from 6 percent to just more than 11 percent over the same period.
- In some elementary schools, as many as one quarter of all students were deemed truant last year, as measured by at least 10 half-days with an unexcused absence during the academic year. In other schools, that rate was as low as 3 percent.
- Similarly, the student mobility rate (a measure of the percent of students who leave or enter a school in one academic year) varies from 5 percent to 17 percent across the district’s elementary schools. In other words, schools with high rates of low-income students tend to have higher rates of student homelessness, truancy and mobility.
- Manchester’s ability to raise money for education is not keeping pace with the rest of the state.
- Whereas Manchester’s per-pupil valuation was equal to between 80 percent and 84 percent of the statewide value in the early 2000s, it now stands at 70 percent of the statewide value. What this means is that, for most of the past decade, Manchester’s ability to raise money for public schools has not kept pace with the rest of the state, with less taxable property available on a per-pupil basis from year to year.
- Over the past decade, Manchester’s per-pupil spending has been among the lowest in the state. In the 2012-13 school year, Manchester spent about $10,400 per pupil, the fifth lowest figure in the state, and roughly $3,100 lower than the statewide per-pupil amount.
In order to address some of these continuing issues, the Manchester Education Association proposed the following to the Board of School Committee during negotiations:
The proposal of joint committees to explore the following issues:
- a joint study committee to review special education caseloads and case management responsibilities at all educational levels.
- a joint study committee to review behavior response strategies and programs, including CPI and Restorative Justice practices. The committee will research and review programs that will assist our educational staff in responding to difficult behaviors in our students in the safest manner, adhering to best practices.
- a joint study committee to review the Unified Arts caseloads in grades Pre-12. This will include the review of how many classes per day and week for each teacher in this category and how many school sites each teacher is assigned to.
- a joint study committee to review the current number of children identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Grades Pre-12. The committee will conduct a longitudinal study to determine the potential, long-range needs of children with this disorder. Included in the committee’s work will be a review of K-5 paraprofessional and other supports currently in place, and a recommendation of additional service providers, if determined.
- a joint study committee to review the potential of the inclusion of partial “flexible” scheduling for staff and/or programs with the intent of creating new opportunities for students for academic support, access to learning areas, and social-emotional growth.
- create a joint study committee to evaluate a program to enable educators to become credentialed by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
- a joint committee will be formed to study if sufficient textbooks and related materials, including teacher materials and equipment are in place to ensure that each pupil in a classroom has equal opportunity.
- Create an Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) committee, which agrees to the following principles:
- The parties agree that schools and those who work in them are at the heart of improving teaching and learning. We expect each school continuously renew itself and build the capacity of its staff to improve the achievement of our students. The parties agree on the following assumptions about school quality and improvement:
- Decisions about teaching and learning must involve those closest to the teaching and learning process within each school community.
- The school is where people make a difference in the daily life of each student. Each school community has the best information and is in the best position to craft appropriate and effective strategies to improve student learning.
- A continuous improvement philosophy takes the traditional pyramid of leadership and decision making and turns it upside down. Central office positions and departments work to serve the interests and meet the needs of those in schools. In schools, administrators and support staff strengthen the
- learning process by providing supports to educators to meet the needs of students.
In order to address the class size issue and adequate counselors, the MEA proposed that the Board follow its policy and national guidelines:Recognizing that class size is an important factor in providing quality education the Board will make reasonable efforts to exceed the maximum standards established in Board policy. No guidance counselor shall have more than a total of 325 students. The Board agrees to implement the American Counseling Association standards for guidance counselor student loads.
Educators wanted a voice in the administration quality in the buildings and asked for that opportunity:
We believe a shared assessment process can improve performances and actions of Principals and administrative teams. Staff in the buildings will be able to evaluate a principal’s and administrative team’s leadership capabilities that improve educator and student performance. All staff will be given the opportunity to complete an anonymous evaluation of their building administrative teams as well as District administration on an annual basis. Results of the evaluations will be used to guide the District’s actions. Evaluations will go to the Superintendent and/or the Assistant Superintendent.
MEA wanted safety for all staff and students, MEA proposed:
The Board agrees to maintain classrooms in accordance with all fire and safety codes, except in the case of emergencies (lock-downs, etc) the number of persons in a classroom shall not exceed the fire and safety codes.
Both parties agree that the safety of the staff and the students are paramount. To that end, Columbine locks will be installed on all classroom doors by the start of the 2018-19 school year. All classroom windows will have shades for their interior doors and all first floor exterior windows will have shades, which can be drawn in an emergency. (This is being provided by a grant from the state, and will adhere to guidelines from ALERRT training.)
ALL THESE PROPOSALS WERE REJECTED BY THE BOARD OF SCHOOL COMMITTEE
This is the letter that we sent to the BOSC to get back to the table: