Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Liars Figure, Figures....Are "Special Needs"

You know the story.

Folkbum went all ballistic (doh) when he read P-Mac's comments on "Red Fred's" New Idea, and dredged up an interesting post from his blog's archives--all going to show that MPS educational costs are not all that much more than Choice re-imbursement dollars.

Given Jay's BFF status with P-Mac, I'll be very civil with Jay's analysis--and give him, personally, the benefit of the doubt. Here's what he says:

My high school was audited a couple of years back (Audit 2005-003, if you care to dig into it), and as a part of that process, the auditors came up with a figure for what my school spent to educate "regular" students, that is, students not receiving special services. That figure was $6,663 per pupil for the 2003-2004 school year. By contrast, those "do more with less" voucher schools could have received, in that same school year, $5,882, a difference of less than $800 per student.

So far, so good. He has a fairly strong case. But how does MPS manage to achieve an average cost/pupil of over $10,000 in the end?

...our special education students that year cost us almost exactly double, at $13,242 per student, and it is that spending that put my school's overall per-pupil cost at a much higher $8,195

(These are figures from about 2004, near as I can determine. Adjust for inflation if you must; it's not relevant.)

The point, Jay, is that MPS seems to have a VERY high "special needs" student count--over 40% of the student population at your school.

This points to a much more important question: how IS it that so many MPS students have "special needs"? It seems statistically difficult to achieve that, given normal distribution curves.

Now I'm not a statistician, and I don't think Jay's making up numbers. I'll even grant that Jay is not specifically interested in preserving his job at MPS--because if he's a good teacher, he'll get a job someplace, no sweat.

But it seems to me that MPS classifies a LOT of little darlings as "special needs."

Could it be?.....Possibly?....that MPS does that just to get extra State and Federal dollars?



Billiam said...

Nah! No! They wouldn't, you know, PAD the numbers? Nothing like, say, getting as many of the students to show up on a certain day, when the count determines the amount of $$ you get. No way. They wouldn't do something so, so, corrupt and dishonest. 40% of the kids in the MPS system being classified as Special Needs is likely, if you ask them, low. There MUST be more out there.

Anonymous said...

Ultimately, I don't see a problem in getting "as many students to show up" on a certain day for numbers reasons. We do WANT all those students in the classroom anyway. That number represents at any given time, the max possibility of students who we want there. It is unfortunate that those students don't show up all the time, but wouldn't we want them to? And shouldn't we give the school the means to educate them if they do?

And as far as MPS "padding" the numbers for special education students. My wife is a Diagnostic Teacher (actually administrates the tests)at an MPS charter. She has never "padded" numbers, nor has she ever been told to. They take tests to determine if they are special needs.

It starts from the bottom up. The kids need to be educated well before they get to middle school, at home and at school. By then it is getting late to teach them the basics and they have developed learning issues, or have just become to discouraged to try.

My personal thought is that this is not an MPS problem, this is a problem at home. A social/societal problem. You can throw as little or as much money as you want at ANY school or teacher, if the students are not there, or do not want to learn the system can't help them. I just don't think it is fair to blame MPS and hold up private schools when private schools have the right to accept or decline people. MPS does not. You put the same students in a private school that some MPS teachers have to deal with, and that private school will probably fail too.

Dad29 said...

I agree entirely that the vast majority of problems in MPS begin in the homes of the students.

But "special needs" has also been jiggered over the last 20 years, by Fed and State regulators.

The private schools do NOT "turn down" special needs kids. Rotten parents rarely (if ever) apply at those schools--because they know their feet will be held to the fire.