This hand prioritizes teaching quality and instruction in core academic subjects, taking advantage of low and no-cost improvements and the largest savings levers – school funding, operations, class size, compensation, and staffing policies.
Benefits from reducing class sizes have only been demonstrated in classes with fewer than 17 students in core academic subjects and in early/transitional grades. Rather than across the board class size reductions, consider transitional support to keep struggling students on track at a time when many are referred to costly special services.
Even class size reductions of 1 or 2 are very costly and should be carefully weighed alongside other options for small group instruction and teaching quality improvement Consider alternative student grouping. Combining classes across grades or moving groups of students among teachers for different subjects can improve student learning even with a higher student-teacher ratio.
Training principals on clear standards and effective evaluation helps them identify and leverage the strongest performers, while targeting support for struggling teachers.
School sizes, class fill rates, and variations in teacher experience/salaries can cause large discrepancies in per pupil funding across schools, even when funding is adjusted based on student need.
WARNING: Also consider: Reduce funding to schools that are overfunded on a per pupil basis.
Varying salary by subject allows districts to reflect the realities of supply and demand and alternative career choices for teachers in science, math, technology, special education and other hard to staff subjects.
Keep in mind, this is a step on the way toward restructuring the teaching job where rewards link to contribution. In addition, adjustment to teacher contracts may involve negotiating with the union.
WARNING: Research results are mixed on the impact of various “performance- based” teacher pay approaches. Compensation system redesign should be undertaken carefully, motivating contribution and performance at all levels.
Though research says class sizes of 15-17 can benefit high poverty students in the early grades, it may not be the most cost-effective way to increase performance, especially if the district cannot guarantee that new teachers will be highly effective.
Combining classes across grades or moving groups of students among teachers for different subjects can improve student learning even with a higher student-teacher ratio.
Special education class sizes that are lower than district targets and Individual Education Plan (IEP) requirements drive up costs and can result in funding inequity across schools without significantly improving student performance.
Research shows that special education students benefit from high-quality, content-based instruction. Special education aides have not demonstrated the same level of benefit. IEPs that identify each student’s needs but provide flexibility in how that support is delivered can serve students more effectively.
Because districts negotiate COLAs based on predicted, not actual, economic realities, COLAs may be overstated, compounding at an inflated value and driving up compensation costs. These costs can be contained with adjustments based on actual cost of living increases.
Most teacher and employee contracts provide yearly “step” increases based on years of service. These increases plus Cost of Living Adjustments create a double increase in long-term salaries with no link to effectiveness or contribution.
Some districts would require a waiver from the state to implement freezing steps.
Furloughing allows short-term budget savings without teacher layoffs.
Furloughing reduces already limited instructional time, and leaves escalating salaries in place for the next year. However, furloughing may be a good strategy when budget pressure is temporary or time is needed for more systemic budget reductions to take effect.
You can redistribute resources to support instruction in critical core subjects by increasing elementary school special subject class size. You might accomplish this by combining three grade level classes into two sections of music, art and Phys. Ed.
Increasing special subject class size by combining classes may require sharing special subject teachers across schools or using part-time special subject teachers.
Benefits from reducing class sizes have only been demonstrated in classes with fewer than 17 students in core academic subjects and early/transitional grades. Outside of those parameters, increasing class sizes, even by a few students, can free up resources without negatively impacting student outcomes.
Increasing average class size across the district will likely result in larger increases in some schools and classes than others, depending on the distribution of current class sizes. School leaders need to carefully consider the composition of student needs in each class and how this matches teacher expertise. As class sizes rise, you may wish to invest in expert teachers for small group instruction for core subjects and certain student groups.
WARNING: If you are choosing to free resources by raising class size, consider reinvesting some of those funds to: “Give $15K stipend to your top 10% contributing teachers for increased leadership and responsibility including serving as coaches.”
Benefits from reducing class sizes have only been demonstrated in classes with fewer than 17 students in core academic subjects and in early/transitional grades. Outside of those parameters, increasing class sizes, even by a few students, can free up significant resources without negatively impacting student outcomes.
Increasing average class size across the district will likely require larger increases in some schools and classes than others, depending on the distribution of classes and class sizes.
Districts with under-enrolled schools likely can free up significant resources by closing some schools and moving students to fill empty spaces in the remaining schools. This savings takes into account the money required to physically close a school.
Educating parents and the community on the trade-offs between school closures and other investments and ensuring high quality schools in which to enroll displaced students can make the difficult politics of school closings easier.
Districts can reduce extra costs by enabling more flexibility to combine staff roles, use untraditional providers, and group students creatively. Districts can also support schools by providing example staffing and scheduling models.
To fully benefit from school closings and consolidations, districts can bring in revenue through building rentals.
The value of this will vary dramatically across districts depending on space available, local real estate market and demand for space.
Due to low enrollment, many high school electives and upper level advanced courses are expensive. On-line instruction can be a low-cost way of offering valued subjects, either as stand-alone classes or as supplements to larger, consolidated classes.
Local and partner expert resources can be used on a part-time basis to provide high quality, low cost non-core instruction. *Non-core refers to subjects other than Math, English/Language Arts, Social Studies, Science and World Language
Many districts make significant investments in instructional coaching positions that can be eliminated instead of cutting classroom teachers. However coaching is integral to professional development and choosing this option could negatively impact teaching effectiveness.
Adjustment to teacher contracts may involve negotiating with the union.
WARNING: While eliminating coaches may be politically easier than more painful classroom-related cuts, expert coaching around daily classroom instruction is an important driver of teaching quality and successful school improvement.
To understand where the greatest potential for cost savings exists, use the % Budget sort button. Without these politically charged yet necessary savings areas, there will be little to put toward teaching effectiveness, core academic instruction, and early intervention.
Your individual district context will dictate variations on these themes as you sort through what you can target in the short and long-term. What is important is that you see these cards as critical trade-offs that can get you closer to reform during these tough fiscal times.
As you contemplate controversial changes to compensation, class size or building usage, you'll need to consider your political capital. Cuts will be more palatable with clear communication of the decision process and corresponding gains. Developing a sequenced approach over several budget cycles will allow you to communicate your goals, build consensus, and avoid trying to introduce too many changes at once.