Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines efficient as productive of desired effects: productive without waste.
In the last couple of years in the State of Texas developed the concept that all public schools must be efficient in the manner in which they educate children. The system has gone so far as to spend a large amount of money to create a system to determine how efficient a school district is at spending their money compared to their testing results.
The reality of trying to quantify the efficiency of a school district is almost as reasonable as putting screen doors on submarines. There are just too many factors to create a system that truly measures the efficiency of a school district and then compares it to other school districts.
Factors to consider:
- Every student population is different.
- There are different mixes of ethnicity in every school.
- There are different geographic locations.
- There are different economic structures in every school.
- There are different types of leadership that put an emphasis on different programs. Some leaders favor fine arts programs, some favor career and technology, and some favor extra-curricular activities. Each an important part of schools, but the emphasis is dependent upon the leadership.
- There are different community expectations. In rural areas, the expectation is about taking Vocational Ag classes and preparing to work in the farming/ranching industry. In larger communities, it is about a better education and the business world. In poor communities, it is about putting food on the table and a roof overhead. In wealthier communities, it is about keeping up with the “Jones”.
- Fuel prices. It is very difficult to budget for travel expenses when the cost of transportation keeps fluctuating. Is there an algorithm that will adjust for the fluctuation of fuel cost?
In a poor school, you may have a class of 25 students.
-18 on free or reduced lunches
-13 that did not get supper last night
-15 that sleep on a couch or the floor
-10 that are working to pay the rent or light bill
-1 or 2 that their home life conditions are conducive to learning.
-5-10 that must to be “parents” to their younger siblings because their parents are working several $8 an hour jobs to make ends meet.
When these students get to school, learning is not high on their priority list. Their priority is “can I make it through another day”.
How can you apply a mathematical formula to that mix and determine whether it is efficient? YOU CAN’T!! It has been proven over and over that it takes more money to educate poor children than children from middle to upper-class families.
What is truly inefficient is how the State of Texas does its business or better yet plays “kick the can”. They meet for 140 days every two years. They sit around for 130 days and do nothing, and then at the eleventh-hour decide to pass some legislation. Now that is an inefficient system!!
If the State of Texas wants schools to be more efficient then:
- Provide schools with the property funding based upon their need. Poor schools get more money. This will allow more staff to reduce the student-teacher ratio.
- Stop making unfunded mandates. When a school has to “create” money to meet the requirements of the law, then that is not very efficient.
- Stop changing the rules every two years. When the State of Texas puts a program in place, then let’s see if it works before changing to another. Changing to a new program every couple of years is not efficient.
- Create a system that meets the needs of more not less. The current system is designed to be unfair to poor schools.
- Create a system that addresses the problem of dropouts and students that are square pegs that just don’t fit into the round hole. They need something different.
Its time for the State of Texas to remove the term “efficient” from their vocabulary until such time that they have cleaned up their own house. It is hard to point fingers when you’re as a guilty as the person you are pointing fingers at. Create a fair and equitable system for funding schools, then properly fund the system according to that system.
David R. Taylor
24 Year Teacher, Coach, and Principal