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Original post made
on Nov 13, 2009
It is important to note that homeschooling a student is much less expensive than educating a student in the regular school programs. Because of this, over the past dozen years or so when the district was not designated a Basic Aid district, inter-district transfer students have actually brought in a SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF revenue for the school district - money which goes directly into the district's general operating fund.
The current Basic Aid designation is also quite possibly a temporary measure. If inter-district students are barred from the program, when the district goes out of Basic Aid, the district will lose an important revenue stream (and won't be able to generate this revenue for years, if ever, because why would families outside the district commit to the program again if the district proves to be so fickle?).
For this reason alone, the ISP should be allowed to continue as is, with a combination of students from within and outside of the district, not just for 15 students who are primarily MV residents.
In addition, since the ISP can't accept NEW inter-district transfers anyway, combined with the number of current students who will have graduated, there will be fewer students next year naturally, and the ratio of resident to non-resident students will increase, so calling it a program that serves "primarily" out of district students is inaccurate.
Furthermore, it is misleading to imply that cutting the program down to a resident-only program would save $100,000. That's comparing this year's numbers with a proposal for a smaller program next year. The actual comparison should be between the estimated costs for running the program "as is" NEXT YEAR vs. a resident-only program next year. Either a bare-bones, resident-only program ($50,000), or a program that continues will all current students (far less than the $150,000). There are savings to be had naturally, since the "as is" version will have fewer students anyway, not to mention the potential to bring in a lot of revenue again in the future.
Therefore, it makes sense both for the district as well as for all currently enrolled students (both resident and inter-district) for the ISP to continue without cutting the program down to a resident-only program. Not to do so is short-sighted and amounts to the district shooting itself in the foot.
I'm all for this program, if anything because the district should be responsible for educating all school-age children in the district, not just ones that attend the schools in person.
Why is it that the district and trustees are always looking to short sell the kids when it comes to saving money, but not make cuts in executive pay and perks?
Don't believe me? Read back through the articles in the Voice on Schools and Kids and it starts to become glaringly apparent.
I certainly don't envy those on the Whisman School District Board who have to make the very tough decisions of how best to run the K-8 education in a severely anemic budget year. I don't know whether or not the decision to go on Basic Aid this academic year affected the overall budget positively or negatively, but I know shrinking the Independent Study Program (ISP) is a detrimental shorted-sighted solution to the health of the Education System in America. The reason the ISP is populated by so many out of district students, ironically, is because it is such a well run, successful program, and people are transferring in from neighboring famed school districts such as Cupertino, Palo Alto, Saratoga, Los Altos, and as far up as San Carlos. In past years, this has not been a point of contention because under the Non-Basic-Aid system, these students actually bring in extra money to the MVWD. The ISP serves not only some extremely gifted and advanced students, it also accommodates special needs children who surprisingly perform extremely well because of the one-on-one attention and flexibility of the program that can be molded to address their needs. In the 10/26/09 Wall Street Journal Article "Why we are failing math and science", education experts agreed that we need to create options in the education system to let what works work and eliminate what doesn't work. For many of us, MVWD ISP works.
I agree with all the above comments. And as "Interested Party" said, if the district simply continues with the policy that no inter-district students be ADDED to the program and IF the district ADVERTISES the program to MV students it would continue to grow and flourish with MV residents.
It has taken years for this program to grow and develop. It is now at its peak and has on a waiting list to get in. It would be irresponsible to shut this program down at this point when the curriculum has already been purchased (for K-8th grades) and the program has already been housed and set up. The district already has trained, highly experienced personnel running the program. In my opinion the cost to run it is a bargain for the district as they employ only 4 staff members all part-timers, who do not receive full time benefits. The return on this investment, dollars the district gets back in exchange for student headcount, is invaluable. Forcing the program to ramp down to 15 students would be irresponsible financially as well as educationally.
What is even more important though is this program offers so much to the students. It offers families an alternative from just the mainstream classroom setting. Curriculum can be taught at the student's own speed and is delivered one-on-one. It allows students to explore other extra curricular activities and interests and work them around their personal learning schedule. It also helps to alleviate extra bodies that would otherwise be back in a classroom increasing class sizes. And it offers an option to families considering leaving the district.
I hope the trustees use long-term vision when considering this program. The savings gained from cutting this program are short term and minimal. The costs of cutting it would be great.
The ISP program addresses many important issues relevant to the "failed CA education system," and should be considered a model for what works in education: It is cost effective, it generates revenue for the district, and most importantly, it educates students who are resourceful and confident scholars, ready to become active citizens and community leaders in the future.
Let me address the last point first: Under the excellent leadership and guidance of Michiko Hashimoto, Director of the MVWSD-ISP Program, the ISP is a working collaboration between the program administrators, teachers, parents and students. With a rigorous curriculum focused on State Standards, students in the ISP excel in academics, measured by consistently high test scores. Students meet with resource teachers twice per month for a total of 18 hours per year. The rest of the time, using curriculum aligned to standards, they learn under the guidance of a parent. In this model, students take ownership of their studies they develop self mastery, accountability, creativity and resourcefulness; they learn study skills, time management, and goal setting. They are active participants in the quality and depth of their education. They actively seek out knowledge and find solutions to problematic issues which enables them to develop the traits they will need to make a difference in the world.
With regard to the ISP being a cost-effective program, the ISP operates on a tight budget. In lieu of full-time salaried staff with complete benefits, it costs only four part-time salaries with no benefits. Instead, it is the parents who volunteer their time to teach. There is very little overhead required as well, as the ISP operates out of one classroom alone and in that classroom houses a multitude of functions: the administrative office, a complete library of textbooks and other academic material for grades K-8, plus it serves as a classroom when students attend science and art classes, as well as a meeting place for the students' bimonthly meetings.
Secondly, the school district has made a significant investment in this program to date. The ISP stocks complete sets of student textbooks, the accompanying teacher editions of those books, and consumables in every academic subject for all nine grades (K-8). These books have been carefully chosen to align with the standards, and are reusable for many years. This is wasted money if the program is cut in size or eliminated.
Finally, as has been stated before, the District has and in the future will be able to generate revenue from students who join this program from out of district. Society is the ultimate benefactor of well educated citizens, disciplined leaders and scholars. This program, on its meager budget, produces just such students in a creative environment, based on a strong collaboration between its participating parents, students, teachers and administrators. It would behoove the district to consider expanding this program, as it is a model which has demonstrated its success. It is something of which the school board should take pride. It should be allowed to exist the way it is, if not be embraced as a model to expand.
To those who posted above,
I sincerely hope you will consider running for MVWSD school board next year. This kind of in-depth, reasoned, probing discussion of issues is seriously lacking at MVWSD board meetings.
It is hard to add to all the previous comments which quite eloquently state the value of MVWSD ISP program. I'll just say on a personal note that this program revived this cynic's faith into the true potential of public education system after rather dismal experiences in more traditional school settings.
I hope that MVWSD trustees will make an informed decision on the future of ISP, based not only on short-term financial projections but with a larger picture in mind. This should not become the deja vu of Slater school closure decision.
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