“Laura Brown Image”

On Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2004, the Hawaii State Teachers’ Association (HSTA) sent out an electronic message to members inciting them to testify against Gov. Linda Lingle’s bill that proposes a constitutional amendment to break up the statewide Board of Education and allow local school boards.

House Education Chair Roy Takumi, who opposes the governor’s reform bill and hopes to show it isn’t supported by the teachers and public, is allowing late testimony on HB 2331 before decision-making at 2 p.m. today. (The last-minute hearing and decision making will be held in Room 309 at the Hawaii State Capitol.)

Takumi has a problem, however. He had to deferred the vote on HB 2331 last week after more than 115 people testified in favor of the governor’s bill, and just around 30 opposed it. His stalling tactics have allowed the public sector unions time to generate enough opposing testimony to overtake the overwhelming testimony from the public sent in favor of the measure.

The HSTA message advises members on talking points to be included in their testimony:

*There are no studies that show a link between student achievement and locally elected school boards.

*The movement across the country is toward centralizing, i.e. New York City.

*Government structure is irrelevant. We should focus only on student achievement.

*Local school boards will lead to well-funded districts for the rich and poor districts will lose out.

Their argument counters the governor’s request to “let the people decide” by asking, “Decide on what? There are no details.”

Apparently, the HSTA leaders have not read the exacting detail of the governor’s “Local Voice, Local Control Act of 2004” introduced as HB 2332 (companion SB 2807).

See http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/sessioncurrent/bills/hb2332_.htm

Also missing from their research are statistics — i.e. National Center of Education Statistics on district sizes and ”’Education Week’s”’ summary of NAEP scores by state, which, when combined, reveal that larger district sizes correlate to poorest performance.

According to the Rural Education Issue Digest on School District Size and School Performance, sponsored by the federal Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, government structure is relevant to student achievement, school improvement, familiarity and civic engagement.

Studies link the size of a state education agency and achievement, with smaller schools and districts breaking the negative effect of poverty on student achievement.

Secondly, in every comparison study made, smaller schools combined with smaller districts demonstrated greater achievement equity for all groups of students.

Claims that district consolidation improves student performance are not supported. More specifically, large districts that include impoverished communities should be deconsolidated to increase the probability for improved school performance.

Ironically, the false or misleading information being sent out by the HSTA and parroted by Democrats in the Legislature opposed to the governor’s reform efforts will lead to testimony that will actually make working conditions worse for teachers.

Studies show that larger school districts result in larger schools. The expected “economy of scale” is not evident in large school districts, making the delivery of education services less, not more, efficient.

In other words, in large districts, resources are used up in the bureaucracy before they trickle down to the classroom.

Therefore, the message to teachers should be to do their homework before they take HSTA advice at face value and find only too late that by shooting down HB 2331 and HB 2332, they will have ruined their best chance for improving the working conditions in Hawaii’s schools.

”References used in OERI Research”

*1. J. Adams, School District Size and State Educational Costs in Kentucky, revised, unpublished paper, Frankfort, KY, 1994, ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 371 921; and A. Ramirez, “Size, Cost, and Quality of Schools and School Districts: A Question of Context,” chapter 4 in Source Book on School and District Size, Cost, and Quality (Chicago and Minneapolis: Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, 1992), ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 361 158.

*2. R. Bickel and C. Howley, “The Influence of Scale on Student Performance: A Multi-Level Extension of the Matthew Principle,” Education Policy Analysis Archives [On-line serial] 8:22 http://olam.ed.asu.edu/epaa/v8n22/ (2000).

*3. C. Achilles, “Small Classes, Big Possibilities,” School Administrator 54(9): 6-9, 12-13, 15 (1997); T. Ellis, Class Size (Eugene, OR: ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management, 1984), ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 259 454; J. Finn, Class Size and Students at Risk: What Is Known? What Is Next? (Washington, DC: National Institute on the Education of At-Risk Students, 1998), ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 418 208; and G. Glass and M. Smith, “Meta-Analysis of Research on Class Size and Achievement,” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 1(1): 2-16 (1979).

*4. Achilles, “Small Classes, Big Possibilities.”

*5. National Association of Secondary School Principals and the Carnegie Foundation, Breaking Ranks: Changing an American Institution (Reston, VA: Author, 1996); M. Fulton, The ABCs of Investing in Student Performance (Denver: Education Commission of the States, 1996), and U.S. Secretary of Education R. Riley, “Schools as Centers of Community” (speech delivered at the annual meeting of the American Institute of Architects, Washington, DC, 1999). The range of good effects anticipated from efforts to reduce the size of schools is wide indeed (K. Cotton, Affective and Social Benefits of Small-Scale Schooling, ERIC Digest EDO-RC-96-5 [Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools, 1996], ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 401 088; and D. Meier, “The Power of Their Ideas: Lessons for America from a Small School in Harlem” [Boston: Beacon, 1995]). Though some claims are probably exaggerated, a clear preponderance of evidence suggests that, on average, smaller school size has solid academic benefits for impoverished students (Fulton, The ABCs of Investing and C. Howley and R. Bickel, The Matthew Project: National Report [Randolph, VT: Rural School and Community Trust Policy Program, 1999]). This is significant news because poverty is the risk factor that threatens student achievement most.

*6. J. Alspaugh, “A Comparison of Four Enrollment Groups of K-8 and K-12 Missouri Rural School Districts” (paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Rural Education Association, Salt Lake City, October 1995), ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 389 501; C. Howley, “Compounding Disadvantage: The Effects of School and District Size on Student Achievement in West Virginia,” Journal of Research in Rural Education 12(1): 25-32 (1996); Howley and Bickel, Matthew Project; and H. Walberg and W. Fowler, “Expenditure and Size Efficiencies of Public School Districts,” Educational Researcher 16(7): 5-13 (1987).

*7. Concern for operations in school district research has sometimes led to the conclusion that the largest districts in the nation are “ungovernable” because their mammoth size sponsors tremendous power for a few and powerlessness for most (see R. Brown, Schools of Thought: How the Politics of Literacy Shape Thinking in the Classroom, [San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1991]), with impoverished children and communities the predictable losers.

*8. Bickel and Howley, “Influence of Scale”; and J. Guthrie, “Organizational Scale and School Success,” Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 1(1): 17-27 (1979).

*9. The full continuum of scale extends from a coarser scale at one end (state and national systems) to a finer scale at the other end (to individual students in a class or reading group, for instance). It may seem strange to regard students in this way as part of the scaling of a system. Consider, however, that students who are more “attentive” may well bring a more finely grained perspective to the task of learning. If particular students engage learning tasks better in smaller schools and classes, perhaps they will do so, in part, through such improved “attentiveness.” By contrast, the alienation said to characterize large schools within large districts would hypothetically subvert such attentiveness, in part, via the operation of “scaling.” This example helps suggest the way structures at higher levels of educational scale might be echoed at lower levels (e.g., state to district to school to classroom to student). See R. Thi

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