How Schools Spend What They Have: Comparing the Budgets of PGCPS and Neighboring School Systems

by T. Carter Ross

When it comes to school spending, many people would agree that there is a need to increase funding for teachers, programs, and activities that have a direct influence on students. But how to achieve that is the difficult part.

To get an idea of exactly what Prince George’s County Public Schools spends and where, it is worth comparing how our school system allocates its funding versus other area school systems. Not that other systems are inherently better at how they spend money, but it is a way to benchmark and to look for ideas and opportunities.

PGCPS is the 21st largest school system in the nation (2014 data from the National Center for Education Statistics). It’s the second largest school system in Maryland and the third largest in the D.C.–Maryland–Virginia region. Montgomery County Public Schools is the largest school system Maryland and the 17th largest in the nation. Fairfax County Public Schools is the largest in the region and the 11th largest in the nation.

Because the Maryland State Department of Education requires county school systems to organize their operating budgets into standardized categories, it is relatively simple to compare how MCPS and PGCPS allocate their funds. (Adding FCPS to the comparison is more difficult because its budget does not detail spending in the same manner.) This comparison does not include the separate capital improvement budget each school system compiles annually.

Approved FY2019 Budget MCPS PGCPS difference
Administration $52,513,673 $71,750,345 $19,236,672
Mid-Level Administration $150,805,386 $129,343,441 $(21,461,945)
Instructional Salaries $1,020,207,902 $709,270,428 $(310,937,474)
Textbooks & Supplies $29,064,773 $18,237,720 $(10,827,053)
Other Instructional Costs $17,237,407 $83,104,311 $65,866,904
Special Education $346,234,807 $279,824,683 $(66,410,124)
Student Personnel Services $12,903,312 $22,612,038 $9,708,726
Health Services $1,590 $20,374,722 $20,373,132
Student Transportation $109,325,393 $107,688,015 $(1,637,378)
Operation of Plant & Equipment $140,888,137 $132,297,375 $(8,590,762)
Maintenance of Plant $38,122,427 $40,699,436 $2,577,009
Fixed Charges $609,638,690 $423,611,677 $(186,027,013)
Community Services $865,163 $3,300,272 $2,435,109

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Notes on 2017 PARCC Results

by Lori Morrow

Results for the PARCC Assessments taken in Spring 2017 were the main discussion item at the PGCPS Board of Education meeting on September 19, 2017.  PARCC stands for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. It is a set of annual tests in English/Language Arts and Mathematics that students take in grades 3-12 during April and May.  More information about PARCC can be found online at https://parcc.pearson.com or www.pgcps.org/parcc.

  • The Maryland State Department of Education released this year’s PARCC scores near the end of August 2017.  Results for all state, county and individual school results are available online at http://reportcard.msde.maryland.gov.
  • All students who took PARCC tests should receive individual score sheets from their schools.  If you have not received your results, contact your school’s Testing Coordinator.  Information about understanding the score sheets is online at www.pgcps.org/parcc. Dr. Goldson mentioned that PGCPS will not be presenting “PARCC Nights” like previous years due to low attendance during the 2016-17 School Year.

PARCC RESULTS PRESENTATION:

Dr. Goldson’s presentation begins with the overview and Elementary School Scores: https://youtu.be/o9T65Q9I83U?list=PL4585E4C6234DE895&t=1620

  • Grades 3-5: Increases in all ELA/Math scores by grade except for a decrease for Math 5. Despite increases, PGCPS is still well below the state average for both assessments. For all demographics, students did better on ELA than they did for Math. Most demographic subgroups showed improvement from SY2016 to SY2017.

Middle School Scores: https://youtu.be/o9T65Q9I83U?list=PL4585E4C6234DE895&t=1944

  • Grades 6-8: Slight decrease for student performance in grades 6-8 on both ELA and Mathematics assessments.  The only increase in results was at Grade 7, which was due to clarification from MSDE that students should take the assessment for their grade level.  All demographic subgroups did better on ELA assessments than they did in Math.  Asian and white students outperformed African American students, but it also must be noted that the number of African American students in PGCPS significantly exceeds the number of Asian and white students.  Most groups at the middle school level showed minimal growth or a slight decrease.

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College Park Academy: A Look at the Data

The views expressed are the author’s own and do not represent the views of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools.

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

A lively discussion at the April 25 Board of Education meeting focused on College Park Academy, a public charter middle and high school in Prince George’s County that benefits from a partnership with the University of Maryland. The argument centered around a proposal that the school reserve 35% of its seats for students living in a “catchment area,” a geographic area that includes neighborhoods close to the university. (Watch video of the entire discussion here.)

College Park Academy was praised for its comparative success on standardized tests — and rightly so. “As many of you already know, we have scored exceptionally high on state assessments,” said Executive Director Bernadette Ortiz-Brewster, “consistently for four years with our blended learning model.” Interim Principal Steve Baker gave details on the school’s impressive standardized test performance (watch the video here).

But no discussion of the school’s success is complete without comparing the population served by College Park Academy with that of the school district at large. In short, the public schools in Prince George’s County tend to serve a higher percentage of kids who have risk factors that may increase the probability of academic underperformance.

The table below shows the percentages of students at College Park Academy needing various special services, as reported by the Maryland Report Card, compared with the percentages of all PGCPS middle school1 students needing special services.

CPA_table

Data from the 2016 Maryland Report Card. “* *” indicates no students or fewer than 10 students in category, or “* *” indicates the percentage for the category is either ≤5 or ≥95 and the corresponding counts have been suppressed.

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SAT Scores Continue Decline, ACT Scores Increase

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

According to the Maryland Report Card, the 2016 mean composite SAT score for Prince George’s County high schools is ten points lower than it was in 2015, representing the eighth straight year of decline. Since 2008 — the earliest year for which data is available — the mean composite score has dropped by nearly 100 points, from 1282 to 1185. The composite score includes a math, critical reading, and writing component*; the maximum score is 2400. The school system’s mean math subscore was 392 in 2016, compared with 397 the previous year. The mean 2016 critical reading and writing subscores were 403 and 390 respectively, compared with 405 and 393 in 2015.

One possible explanation for the decline is that the number of test takers was slightly higher compared with the year before (6,669 vs. 6,630 in 2015), though the cohort of seniors appears to be smaller, based on Maryland Report Card data.

While SAT scores have been declining since 2008, ACT scores in the county have been inching up. The mean composite score in 2016 was 19, compared with 18 in 2015, and 17, in 2008. (The maximum ACT score is 36.) While the number of PGCPS students taking the ACT has increased significantly (1,183 in 2016 compared with 871 in 2008), it is still much smaller than the number of students taking the SAT. It is interesting to note that an ACT score of 19 puts a test taker at about the 44th percentile, compared with students nationwide, making PGCPS’s ACT performance look respectable, if not impressive. (Looking at PGCPS’s SAT scores in the context of national benchmarks and percentile ranks presents a much bleaker picture.)

The table below shows the average reading, math, and writing subscores and the average composite SAT scores for 2016 college bound seniors in each of the county’s public high schools, as well as the average scores for PGCPS and the state of Maryland. Next to each score, the change from the previous year, 2015, is displayed in either red or green. (For example, at the Academy of Health Sciences, the average reading SAT score was 542 in 2016, eight points higher than it was in 2015.)

SAT_table

Mean SAT scores for college-bound seniors, as reported by the MSDE on the 2016 Maryland Report Card; changes (+/-) from 2015.

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Update on Administrative Leave Situation in Prince George’s County Schools

An earlier post documented the large number of staff on administrative leave in the Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS).

by Justine C. 

IMG_6404Since I wrote about this issue on March 1, 2017, there has been increased reporting in the local media on the problem. School board members Edward Burroughs (Distrct 8), David Murray (District 1), Raaheela Ahmed (District 5), and Juwan Blocker (Student Member) have created a petition in April to review and revamp the administrative leave policy. Their stated goals are to host listening sessions and create recommendations for improvements to the current policies and procedures.

In addition, this month, PGCPS’s Office of Monitoring, Accountability and Compliance will be providing any recommendations they have for changes to policies and procedures regarding student safety. (See minutes from March 7 Policy, Legal, and Legislative Committee Meeting.) The office was created on July 1, 2016, to oversee the development and implementation of procedures and protocols related to student safety.

In response to a Public Information Act request, PGCPS reports that as of May 2, 2017, there are 153 teachers — compared with 160 on January 31 — and 248 additional staff on administrative leave for a total of 401 personnel, indicating either a decline in the number of reports or faster investigations.

PGCPS also indicated in their response to my Public Information Act request that they implemented a tracking system in early April that includes the disposition of cases, referring to whether or not a staff person was reprimanded, terminated, or some other course of action was taken. However, they do not track the amount of time a case takes to investigate and how long teachers are out of the classroom on administrative leave.

Response to the Public Information Act request is embedded below.

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A Closer Look at 7th Grade Math PARCC Scores

by Lori Morrow

Over the next two months, PGCPS will administer the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test for the third year. For more about PARCC visit the PGCPS website at http://www1.pgcps.org/parcc/.

In late September 2016, PGCPS announced that students had made gains on the PARCC test at most grade levels. However, there was an exception for seventh grade, my child’s grade. According to a PGCPS press release, “Overall, the percentage of students who met or exceeded expectations was higher this year, with the exception of the seventh-grade math test, whose testing pool excluded higher-performing students enrolled in eighth-grade math or Algebra I.”

I had initially missed the note about this “exception” but began to look closer at PARCC scores on the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) Maryland Report Card after receiving my son’s individual score sheet in October. I was surprised to see so few Level 4 or Level 5 scores for the Math 7 test; those blocks were labeled only with an asterisk, indicating less than 5%. Why had this cohort—students who took the MSA in fifth grade and started with PARCC in sixth grade—fallen behind?

In an email response, PGCPS CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell said that the apparent drop for the Math 7 scores was due to a change in the testing pool. He explained that in the spring of 2015, seventh-grade students, regardless of their math class, took the PARCC score aligned with their grade, Math 7. However, in 2016, PGCPS chose to have seventh-grade students enrolled in Honors Math/Accelerated 2 take the Math 8 PARCC exam, since the accelerated course curriculum was designed to cover Math 7 and 8. This is a question that I never thought to ask when I attended PARCC nights in the spring, but it made a difference in the score results.

On the MSDE website, it is not intuitive that some students are tested at a level other than their assigned grade before high school. Results are broken down by test level and demographics but not by student’s grade. Furthermore, my follow-up questions to PGCPS about the results of seventh graders alone were met with the answer that the information was not publicly available. I knew that my child’s score level had dropped from taking the Math 6 PARCC test in sixth grade to taking the Math 8 PARCC in seventh grade, but I wanted to know how the rest of the seventh graders in Honors/Accelerated 2 fared on the Math 8 exam. After filing a Maryland Public Information Act request, I received the results.

pgcps parcc2016 with mpia

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Charter Schools, Specialty Programs, and the Issue of Equitable Access

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

The lively discussion about equitable access to College Park Academy that took place during last month’s Board of Education meeting (beginning at 1:51:27 in the video) is must-watch TV—and not just for the moment when Board Chair Segun Eubanks told Edward Burroughs to “shut up and let the parliamentarian answer the question (at 1:54:50).”

Board Member Edward Burroughs (District 8) proposed amending the resolution granting a one-year extension to College Park Academy, a public charter school for students in grades six through nine which offers blended learning in partnership with the University of Maryland. Referring to the University of Maryland’s request that some slots be allotted to the children of University employees and to residents of College Park, Burroughs emphasized that all students, including “our most disadvantaged students,” should have access to the charter school, “not the select few, not those that come from the elite class in the county or in College Park.”

Burroughs’s amendment—which was adopted after a vote by the Board—adds the clause, “whereas the Board of Education wants to ensure equity and access for all students, regardless of socioeconomic status or zip code,” to the language of the resolution.

Contributing to the conversation surrounding equitable access, Board Member Jeana Jacobs (District 5) raised the question of whether children with special needs were being well-served at the school: “You do a review of our special needs population that’s there. There is some suggestion that they’re encouraged to home school or go to their neighborhood school.” (For Jacobs’s remarks, go to 2:06:20 in the video.)

What do the numbers say? Are “our most disadvantaged students” well-represented at College Park Academy? Data from the 2015 Maryland Report Card suggest that College Park Academy serves disproportionately few students needing special services, particularly when compared with the six closest neighboring middle schools (see map of area school locations here).

The table below shows the percentages of students who qualify for Free and Reduced Meals (FARMs), who have limited English proficiency (LEP), and who receive special education services, respectively, at the seven schools listed.

SmallChartv2

Percentages of students qualifying for Free and Reduced Meals, with Limited English Proficiency, receiving special education. An asterisk (*)  is used to indicate fewer than ten students in a category1. Source: 2015 Maryland Report Card, “Students Receiving Special Services”

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