Archive for Thursday, June 28, 2007

District cited among most efficient

June 28, 2007

The Lansing school district has received a test score that any mother would be proud to hang on her refrigerator.

In the recent Kansas School Efficiency Study, Lansing scored 100 percent in regards to its ability to maximize its resources in spending per pupil.

Superintendent Randal Bagby said, however, he won't be running out any time soon to have the results engraved on a plaque.

Bagby said the district still had ways to improve and that is his focus right now.

The study, conducted by the national financial firm Standard & Poor's, looked at 257 of Kansas' 296 school districts. To assess each districts efficiency with money, the study looked at spending per pupil, results of the Kansas math and reading assessment tests and the number of enrolled students who were disabled, poor or non-English speaking.

Scores on the test ranged from 60 percent to 100 percent, with the state average being 85 percent.

Bagby said some of the results might be misleading. He said what probably helped Lansing receive its 100 percent score was the fact that the district is currently short on administrators.

Because of this, the total spending of the district is lowered, which in turn gives the district a higher average in per-pupil spending.

"We're basically a skeleton crew compared to other districts," he said.

Bagby said many people don't consider administrators to have a direct effect on students, which he said really isn't the case.

He added that the study gave the state a good starting point of where to go next in regards to how much money should be given to each district. He compared the study to Kansas' math and reading assessments, saying each represented only one measuring stick.

The saying "one size fits all" definitely doesn't apply to education Bagby said, which means the state should look at each district as an individual with different needs.

The study aside, Bagby said the district's protocol was to always seek improvement. He said he wanted to fill in the gaps, such as administrators, while still keeping a high efficiency rating.

A high efficiency rating is like a moving target changed each year by students, teachers and the community.

"I'd love to hang my hat on it and be proud," Bagby said of the district's scores in the study. "But you keep moving on to next year."

Michael Stewart, director of Standard & Poor's school evaluation services, said the study tried to remain balanced by not only looking at per-pupil spending but constraints the districts can't control. He said that disabled, economically disadvantaged and non-English speaking students take more money to educate and take longer to achieve state standards.

"Those students can inflate spending and deflate achievement," he said.

Because of this, Stewart said the study compared similar districts around the state to get an accurate efficiency rating.

He couldn't comment directly on the administration issue Lansing may have because he said the study looked at spending as a whole rather than specific budgetary lines.

"Whatever Lansing has been able to do, they've done it better than other similar districts," he said, adding that the 100 percent rating was a real achievement.

Stewart said when Gov. Kathleen Sebelius initiated the study, the hope was that districts would use the results to learn from one another. With the recent increase in the state's educational funding, Stewart said Sebelius had shown a real commitment to making sure that those resources were used as efficiently as possible.

Shelly Gowdy, president of the Lansing school board, said she also hoped the study resulted in more collaboration among districts across the state. She said she wanted every school district to get the best student performance it could.

"The bottom line is we want our kids to have the best possible educational advantages coming out of Kansas' schools," she said.

One aspect Gowdy said was telling was the fact that no inner-city districts received a 100 percent score. She said the study addressed an important issue in the entire education program and hoped the results would bring awareness to the problem.

There were a total of 21 districts, including Lansing, that received a score of 100 percent: Arkansas City, Ashland, Baldwin City, Brown County, Burlingame, Deerfield, De Soto, Dodge City, Gardner-Edgerton, Great Bend, Halstead, Kismet-Plains, Leoti, Lyons, Newton, Osawatomie, Rolla, Shawnee Mission, Waconda and West Elk.

The lowest score in the state was 61.8 percent from Altoona-Midway.

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