The Duval County School Board was recently presented with the final report from Education Resource Strategies, which for the last year has been working with the district to conduct a comprehensive resource analysis.
ERS, a Massachusetts based non profit, has partnered with large urban school districts around the country—such as Charlotte, Baltimore and Los Angeles—to build strategies for improved instruction and performance.
“As standards for achievement rise and resource levels fall, DCPS must build on current efforts and be more deliberate than ever about the way it uses people, time and money to support student success,” said ERS Director Jonathan Travers. “Our objective was to show how DCPS, even with its low funding level, can reduce costs, rethink existing resource use, and make limited new investments to improve teaching effectiveness and student performance overall.”
Duval County Public Schools, in partnership with the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, engaged ERS in the fall of 2010. The audit cost the district $550,000. The Jacksonville Public Education Fund contributed $100,000 and raised an additional $100,000.
“This study provided the district with valuable insights on how to take existing money and focus on more efficiency to improve the outcomes for our students,” said Duval County Public Schools’ Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals. “Benchmarking our district against other large urban districts provided a critical analysis of our funding, staffing levels, planning and instructional time.”
Among the report’s key findings:
• Duval County Public Schools is one of the lowest funded districts ERS has studied. Compared with peer districts, it spends the lowest share of its budget on central management functions and the most on instruction.
• Duval County Public Schools should focus on improving teacher effectiveness by comprehensively implementing the new evaluation system and bringing together pieces of DCPS’s current >$100 million investment in instructional support to strengthen teaching teams.
• The school district must expand and improve individualized supports for highest-need students.
• DCPS must change strategy to attract and develop top talent and better support students’ readiness to learn in turnaround schools.
• Through school consolidation the district can free up some of the $26 million invested in smaller school size to increase the funding it can allocate based on prioritized need. The study found 51 elementary schools had enrollments of fewer than 500 students, and 17 of them had fewer than 350.
Gary Chartrand, chairman of the board of directors for the Jacksonville Public Education Fund called the completion of the report a bold step toward improvement.
“It’s not easy to put yourself and your organization under the microscope for this type of analysis,” Chartrand said. “We look forward to supporting the district as it takes action on these findings.”
Chartrand, who is executive chairman of Acosta Sales and Marketing and also sits on the Florida Board of Education, said he knows first-hand how valuable it can be for organizations to bring in outside experts to evaluate policies and practices.
“The superintendent and school board members should be applauded for undertaking this work. This short-term investment will yield significant, long-term, positive change for our district and the kids of Duval County, just as it did for our business,” Chartrand said.
Go here or here to read the full report.
SOURCES: Deirdre Conner, Jacksonville Public Education Fund; Jill Johnson, Duval County Public Schools