Facts on district revenue and per-pupil spending

In past articles, we’ve shown you how much money we get and where it all goes.

Our community deserves an honest dialogue – without ideology and special interest talking points – about school funding that includes a fair assessment of needs, expenses, and revenue.

So let’s talk for a moment about where money comes from and under what circumstances we get more of it.

Where does revenue come from?

About a third of our operating budget comes from the State of Tennessee. They give us a certain amount of money per student and according to what kind of student. When more students enroll, our revenue from the state goes up, to the tune of about $3,200 per student.

The other two-thirds comes from the Metro Government, paid from county taxes and allocated by the Mayor’s Office and the Metro Council. The amount of money we get from the Metro Government is fixed. It is not tied to a per-student formula the way state money is.

This year our enrollment is up by nearly 1,800 students. About a third of our revenue (from the state) reflected that increase. The other two-thirds of our revenue (from the Metro Government) remained flat.

[NOTE: We received a $26 million increase in our operating budget from the 2012-13 school year to the 2013-14 school year. Of this $26 million, $12 million came from our own fund balance, $10 million came from the state and $4 million came from Metro Government.]

How does that money move around the district?

It’s a phrase people use a lot: per-pupil spending. Metro Schools spends around $9,100 per pupil in grades K-12. When a student moves from one school to another, the money theoretically follows him.

If the student leaves his neighborhood school and moves into a magnet school, he is moving from one district-operated school to another. The money attached to him stays in the same pot of district money and our per-pupil spending amount stays the same.

When a student leaves his neighborhood school – or a magnet school – for a charter school, the $9,100 moves to the charter management organization that runs the charter.

When a student leaves a district school for a private school, the money does not follow him to the private school. The district loses the state revenue associated with that student, but the private school does not get it. The funding from Metro Government is unchanged. The private school gets private money in the form of tuition.

The expenses of the neighborhood school don’t increase with every additional student and don’t decline with every student departure. The school is spending the same amount to keep its lights on and its hallways clean. The school still has teachers to pay and technology to buy and maintain.

Innovative practices that are designed to quickly improve achievement could face tough times, like extended learning time, model classrooms and certain kinds of school-level professional development.

What’s the solution?

Our strategic plan calls for more equitable use of resources, placing money where it’s needed most for fair service of students. We are already moving toward a model that puts more money directly in the hands of principals, allowing them to spend money in ways that will most directly benefit the unique needs of their students. That will help everyone decide best allocation of existing resources and ensure that money is spent in the most effective ways.

But what about revenue?

The answer will come from a community discussion of school finances. We must have an honest and open dialogue about revenue and expenses. The Board of Education began that conversation this fall, well in advance of the usual budget cycle.

This issue has wide-reaching effects, beyond just budgeting and buying textbooks. It can affect a school’s character and existence.

Let’s look at it at the individual school level. When a school is constantly threatened with drastic budget cuts or even closure, it has a more difficult time attracting students, which leads to further budget reductions.

It is a cycle that puts even more of a burden on teachers and principals to properly educate the students they already have.

Updated: Where does the money go?

UPDATE: Our comprehensive and award-winning budget book is now available for your review. At 228 pages, is contains all the financial facts you could want for fiscal year 2013-14.

DOWNLOAD the FY2013-14 Budget Book
(PDF – 33.8MB)

Contained within the budget book is a greatly expanded version of our original post, the 2012-13 School Year Expenditure Analysis. It gives an in-depth (50 page) look at all of the money spent from the Metro Schools operating budget and grants.

For the sake of convenience, we’ve broken it out into a separate document.

DOWNLOAD the SY2012-13 Budget Analysis
(PDF – 2.1MB)


PREVIOUSLY:

Let’s look at the facts of public education funding in Nashville.

Here is a breakdown of the 2012-13 operating budget:

  • $714 million – 2012-13 District Operating Budget
  • $441 million – Amount sent directly to district-run schools
  • $28.2 million  – Amount sent to charter schools
  • $163.3 – million – Amount spent on school-specific operations and instructional support services like transportation, maintenance, custodial and grounds, IT
  • $41.4 million – Amount spent on Board of Education, Human Capital, Finance and Purchasing, instructional departments and other central support functions
  • $39.2 million – Amount spent on retiree benefits, pension and debt service

When those are added together, they give a great deal more context:

  • Including charter schools, nearly 66% of resources serve schools directly.
  • Including school specific services like transportation and maintenance, more than 88% of MNPS expenditures flow to schools to provide and support instruction.

In chart form:

Directly to District-run Schools $441,107,943 61.7% All school-based staff such as teachers, principals, counselors, librarians, bookkeepers, etc.
Centrally Managed, School-based Services $163,348,961 22.9% Transportation, maintenance, custodial, utilities, textbooks, and itinerant social workers, psychologists, and other
Central Services $41,458,693 5.8% Board, Superintendent, Finance, Purchasing, HR, Leadership & Learning Supervision, other centralized services (e.g., most of IT/data warehouse)
Obligations $39,252,805 5.5% Pension, retiree insurance, debt service
Charter Schools $28,240,250 4.0% Pass-through to charter schools
Other $1,032,606 0.1% Pass-through expenses
GRAND TOTAL $714,441,258 100%

Nashville’s conversation on ACT scores is misleading

With all the recent conversation about ACT scores, you would think the facts would be well established, but we keep reading ACT stories that report the same mistakes. Here are the facts.

Even though the average score in Tennessee and in Nashville remain well below what they should be — and what they will be — strong growth is happening. In Nashville, we saw big gains in the ACT this year, bigger gains than Tennessee saw as a whole. In fact, we were one of the top ten districts in the state for growth and earned 5’s—the top score—for value added. On top of that, Metro students averaged an ACT score almost a full point higher than projections.

That is huge news.

Why? These projections were made four years ago when these students were about to enter high school. That means our high school instruction has improved a great deal over the last four years.

  • Projected Mean Score: 17.49
  • Actual Mean Score: 18.43

But it’s still not good enough. We want every student to score a 21 or better on the ACT.

Let’s compare Tennessee’s average ACT score to that of Massachusetts:

  • MA – 24.1 (the highest in the nation)
  • TN – 19.7 (fourth from the bottom in the nation)

Looks pretty dim. But now let’s compare where those scores are coming from in those same two states:

  • MA – A quarter of students tested: Those headed to college who choose to take the ACT (and pay for it, study for it, etc).
  • TN – All students tested on the ACT: Everyone. Like Tennessee, the other states at the bottom of the rankings have universal testing of high schools students.

Are those playing fields level for comparison? No.

There are those who would argue that shouldn’t matter, that scores are too low in Nashville and Tennessee no matter how you look at it.

They are correct.

Every student in Tennessee takes the ACT. It’s not only used to measure our collective achievement, but it also gets them into a college mindset and assesses whether or not they are prepared for college.

That last part is where we have to do better. We have to better prepare our students for college. Anything less is a disservice to students in our schools.

Let’s go over that part again because it’s important.

No one in Metro Schools believes an 18.4 district average is acceptable. No one in Tennessee believes the 19.7 statewide average is acceptable. Anyone who thinks we are resting on the laurels of incremental score growth is wrong.

When you’re talking district-wide transformation, test scores are always the last piece to move – especially ACT scores. That’s because ACT scores measure the accumulated wealth of years of education.

The recurring obsession with ACT numbers does two things: it unfairly compares states with different populations taking the ACT and gives short shrift to the growth in student achievement and the hard work to make that happen.

The real solution is building stronger high school students who turn into stronger graduates. That starts as soon as they enter kindergarten.

Good thing, then, that we now have a district-level executive guiding instruction for K-12 as one, continuous whole. A unified vision for instruction at every grade level means elementary students will be better prepared for middle school. Middle schoolers will come to high school achieving at higher levels. And eleventh graders will score higher on the ACT.

Good thing, then, that we are moving our top experts in instruction into schools, where they can adapt and guide instruction for individual clusters, schools, classrooms and even students.

The transformation of Nashville’s public schools is ongoing and ever evolving. But it’s driven by – and has always been driven by – the same goal: across the board improvement in academic achievement for all students, by any measure.

Is the ACT important? Of course. Colleges use ACT scores for admissions decisions. Educators rely on them to assess how they are doing and how they can better prepare students for graduation.

But is it the end all, be all of the education conversation? No.

What should be the end all, be all of the education conversation? Everything leading up to the ACT.

Opinion Piece: Banning all virtual schools isn’t the answer

What practical effects would come from revoking the Tennessee Virtual Schools Act? For one thing, it might actually decrease accountability for online education.

That’s the conclusion of Dr. Kecia Ray, head of Learning Technology in Metro Schools. She gave her thoughts about all the talk of banning virtual schools this week in The Tennessean.

Public virtual schools have the same accountability standards as brick-and-mortar schools. Under the current system, underperforming virtual schools are at risk of state takeover or even closure. Revoking the Tennessee Virtual Schools Act would actually allow schools to circumvent accountability by operating as virtual programs, not schools, with student achievement results sent to the student’s zoned school. This is not the transparency most desire.

Dr. Ray also gives a possible alternative to this drastic measure at the end of the piece.

To read her full opinion column, visit Tennessean.com.

2013 brings fundamental change to the way our schools are run

2013 will be a year of big changes for Metro Schools.

Sure, we’ve had more than a few big changes in the last few years, but if you’re feeling “reform fatigue” don’t fret. This plan for transformation is an evolution of what we’ve already done: expanding it, adjusting it and learning from what’s working.

We could feel the disappointment last month when word trickled in that we had not won the Race to the Top District competition. That extra $30-40 million dollars would have made a huge impact on the plans for transforming our schools.

But that disappointment didn’t last long. We knew the blueprint for success laid out in our application was solid and would still move forward. Without the extra boost that money would have provided we may have to change pace, but the transformation will go on.

It’s a plan based on the individual: individual students, teachers, principals, classrooms and schools. It’s a plan to decentralize power and decision-making in our district, moving from a top-down, Central Office power structure to alliances of schools that decide what works best and how to replicate it.

Every student in the schools first targeted by this plan – 27,000 of them – will have a personalized learning plan. These plans will be created by students, teachers and parents. They will be fluid, changing based on the very latest data from assessments done throughout the year, and will allow us act more quickly when intervention is needed. Students will learn at their own speeds without waiting for the rest of the class to catch up or struggling to keep pace with their classmates. No two plans will look the same.

Many of these changes in learning will be driven and designed by principals who have proven successful in their own schools. These Lead Principals will bring together networks of 4-5 schools and lead by example through mentoring and collaborating with other schools that are committed to personalized learning for students. Methods and strategies that work in one school will be replicated in another. Best practices from teachers and leaders will be shared across the district. And all of this will be done with a common accountability framework, as well as some non-negotiables and more autonomy from the central organization.

Individual principals will be empowered under this plan because who knows better what a school needs than the person who spends hours each week walking its halls and talking to its students, teachers and parents? School leaders will be given more decision-making power over hiring, budgeting, scheduling, curriculum offerings, and more. They will be responsible and held accountable for these decisions and the structures put in place to meet the needs of their learners.

There will be a shift toward greater school autonomy. With reductions in staff in the Central Office and greater power inside our schools, principals will be able to respond more quickly to the unique needs of every student.

In some cases this could lead to a radically different school culture. Students will benefit from closer relationships among students and teachers, students and students. There could be more shared learning among subjects, classrooms with more than one teacher and new leadership opportunities for teachers that won’t take them out of the classroom. Students will lead parent-teacher conferences and parents will get hands-on with their child’s data. We’ll also be changing the way we think about how students make progress, looking much more closely at mastery rather than time spent on a task.

We will make our schools more agile and responsive to the individual because that is what the 21st century requires. We must prepare students for careers that don’t yet exist. We need them to be motivated, engaged and in charge of their own learning. Lifelong learners, those who can quickly adapt to change and those with the cultural literacy our diverse schools provide will thrive in our globally connected society.

Our plan for radical school transformation will make that happen.

9 local & national leaders write letters of support for MNPS in Race to the Top District competition

UPDATE: Though Metro Schools did not win the Race to the Top District competition, the plan outlined in our application – and supported by the leaders listed below – will move forward.


City, state, and national leadership are lining up in support of Metro Schools’ plans for reform and the Race to the Top District competition money that could help make them successful much more quickly.

“What happens in Nashville matters to Tennessee and the nation,” wrote Gov. Bill Haslam. “Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools is uniquely positioned to inform the entire field.”

Gov. Haslam is one of many who wrote letters to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan voicing full support for the reform efforts happening in Metro Schools. Joining him are Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, former Senator and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Representative Jim Cooper, State Representative and Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, Mayor Karl Dean, Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman, and former State Senator and CEO of SCORE Jamie Woodson, .

Our district has applied for $40 million in the Race to the Top District competition, which would help accelerate the implementation and success of our efforts. The application includes plans for networked leadership so groups of schools, including charter schools, can share best practices, personalized learning plans for more than 27,000 students, and increased school autonomy and accountability. We are one of just 61 districts across the nation chosen as a finalist in the competition and and the only one that will be building on the work begun as a first round recipient of Race to the Top funding. The U.S. Department of Education will choose 15-25 finalists who will each receive part of a $400 million grant.

Learn More About RTTT-D & Read Our Application

Read the Full Letters of Support:

District-charter collaboration leads to transparency, high standards, & real opportunity

by Alan Coverstone, Executive Director of the Office of Innovation

In Nashville, when we first sat down to determine if it would be possible to build a collaborative relationship between our school district and charter school leaders, very few places had tried it. Just a short time later, our District-Charter Collaboration Compact was recognized as one of the first nine nationwide, and charter and district leaders have been building their cooperation ever since. We are learning a great deal with and from each other, and most of the lessons were made possible by the leaders who agreed to explore that first step.

We are fortunate the district leaders and charter leaders who helped develop the compact had the foresight to realize that unless we agreed on the outcomes we expect from our schools, we would never be able to work together effectively. Spending our time trying to show the data on our schools only in the most favorable light, whether in favor of charters or district schools, is a waste of time and contributes to misunderstanding and cynicism. Parents need to know objectively how schools are doing with all schools measured on the same balanced, objective criteria so their school choices will be informed through data.

Our District-Charter Collaboration Compact begins and ends with our shared commitment to high-performing schools for every student in Nashville regardless of whether that high performer is a charter, magnet, design center, enhanced option, or zoned school. Holding all schools to the highest possible standards is good for kids and making the information fair, useable and available for parents is too.

Nashville Public Schools Scorecard

We have taken an important step in that direction with the release of our new Scorecard comparison tool that allows parents to see the same measures for different schools side–by-side. With this information, visits to schools can be even more helpful as parents get to know the people in the building working hard to improve achievement by creating real opportunities for students.

 

Explore the Scorecard

Explore Your School Options

A letter to parents: So you’re a Focus School. What does that really mean, anyway?

UPDATE: The Tennessee Department of Education has awarded Focus School grants to Amqui, Carter Lawrence, and Ruby Major Elementary Schools, as well as Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School. These grants are worth anywhere from $100,000-300,000 and will be used to help close achievement gaps at these schools.

To learn more about these grants, visit the DOE website.


Dear Parents,

When the Tennessee Department of Education released the list of “Focus Schools” with a few MNPS schools on it, we heard from parents right away. There was some confusion and more than a little concern. Focus is a new label with a new definition, and it’s not immediately clear what it means. Some assumed it was a replacement for the old label of a High Priority or “Failing” school.

That’s not the case. The state defines Focus Schools like this:

“The 10 percent of schools in the state with the largest achievement gaps between groups of students, such as racial and ethnic groups, students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, students with disabilities and English-language learners.”

The achievement gap is a key concern of Tennessee’s new accountability system for schools and districts. MNPS wants to see all groups of students achieving at high levels, and we are making progress across the district.

Here’s what it can mean to be a Focus School:

  1. The school has high achieving students.
    The state’s own guidelines say, “Schools on the Focus list are not necessarily there because of low achievement. In fact, many showed excellent growth last year.” If your school saw big gains in all students – including those at the very top of the honor rolls – that’s a wonderful thing. But, it also means the gap between the top students and everyone else didn’t get any smaller. We need to increase all students’ achievement and close the achievement gap at the same time.
  2. The school is diverse.
    Our schools have many students with different backgrounds, different home lives, and different abilities, and they’re all held to the same standard. Some students have a great balance of support systems at home and at school to help. Some don’t. By giving schools this label, the state is asking that we “focus” part of our attention on these schools to increase achievement for all students of all abilities. That’s just what we’ll do.
  3. The school is eligible for additional financial help to close the gap.
    Again, from the state guidelines:

“Focus Schools will be eligible to apply for grants aimed at dramatically closing the achievement gap. Schools not awarded a competitive grant will be provided state resources to close their achievement gaps.”

The school labels under the new system are much more accurate and provide a fuller picture of a school than the old No Child Left Behind labels. The new labels place the focus on increasing academic performance for our schools’ highest achievers as well as on those who need the most help, so everyone achieves more.

Sincerely,

Your Metro School

It’s Official: Metro Nashville Public Schools rates “Intermediate” status

District meets seven of nine benchmarks; student achievement grows

Metro Nashville Public Schools showed growth in achievement among all subgroups of students last year, placing the district in intermediate status – the second highest accountability category. The State Department of Education earlier today released district-level status for all Tennessee districts, including for Metro Nashville Public Schools.

Under this new accountability framework, the top-performing districts are “Exemplary” while the bottom performing districts are in two “In Need of Improvement” categories; the remaining districts are in an intermediate category. Tennessee’s new accountability system replaces No Child Left Behind’s Annual Yearly Progress measures. Rather than expecting all districts to meet the same benchmarks year after year, the new system acknowledges that districts are starting from different places and rewards those that show the most growth. Under the new system, approximately 43% of districts were categorized as “In Need of Improvement” or “In Need of Subgroup Improvement.”

“These results show that thousands more of our students are performing at a higher level,” said Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register. “Tennessee standards are among the highest in the country and this new accountability system is real, it is holding districts to standards that are difficult but attainable.

“The growth we have seen this year is the result of a lot of hard work, of making changes to instructional practice, providing more professional development and meeting our students’ diverse needs. We want to accelerate that growth at all levels and close achievement gaps.”

The accountability system, adopted after Tennessee secured a waiver from part of NCLB earlier this year, looks to districts to increase achievement levels for all students and reduce achievement gaps that exist between certain groups. Metro Schools serves approximately one-third of the state’s English Learner students, as well approximately 12,000 Students with Disabilities. The district also serves more than 56,000 economically disadvantaged students, which is about 71% of total enrollment for last year.

Metro Schools’ students made significant academic progress in the 2011-12 school year and the district met the majority of Tennessee’s academic achievement targets. In 2010, Tennessee adopted new academic performance standards that are among the most demanding in the nation. Metro Schools have shown steady improvement against these higher standards.

Grade 3-8 TCAP Tests
% proficient/advanced
  2010 2011 2012 
Reading/Language Arts 33.9% 38.9% 42.1% 
Math 25.9% 32.2% 38.4%
Science 36.2% 38.8%  44.5%
High School End of Course Exams
% proficient/advanced
  2010 2011  2012 
Algebra I 28.7% 37.6% 41.8%
English II 47.4% 46.6%  48.7% 

In addition, the district made impressive improvement at every grade level on the TCAP writing assessment with nine out of ten middle and high school students scoring competent or better.

Writing Assessment
Competent or Higher
  2010 2011  2012 
Grade 5  77% 77% 81% 
Grade 8 86% 86% 90%
Grade 11 90% 88%  91%

With this new system, Metro Schools met seven of nine benchmarks. The district showed improvement but narrowly missed the set benchmark for third grade reading/language arts. The district also missed in the graduation rate, the one calculation that has a one-year lag. The state has changed its calculation of graduation rate from a 5-year calculation to a 4-year calculation. Many students served by Metro Schools, such as English Learners or Students with Disabilities, require five years to graduate and are not included in the district’s overall graduation rate. Last year, Metro Schools’ graduation rate was 76.2%, down from 82.9% under the 5-year calculation. The 2012 graduation rate is not available.

Under Tennessee’s new accountability framework, the top-performing districts are exemplary while the bottom performing districts are in two in need of improvement categories; the remaining districts are in an intermediate category.

“I appreciate the support of our Board of Education as we transform our district. We knew test scores would be the last thing to change and we are pleased to see this growth,” said Register. “We must continue to improve in all categories. Reducing the achievement gap among student groups is our most significant challenge.”

Individual student reports are in transit to the schools where students are assigned for the 2012-13 school year. Each school will send the reports home to families. The State of Tennessee has not yet released school-level data.