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Say Yes report: Guilford school district ‘runs lean,’ devotes most dollars to student programs

Say Yes report: Guilford school district ‘runs lean,’ devotes most dollars to student programs

Triad Business Journal

By: Katie Arcieri

Guilford County’s school system “runs lean” and spends most of its money on activities that directly affect students or teachers, according to a consulting firm hired by Say Yes to Education.
The reports provided from Schoolhouse Partners are being used to analyze where investments should be made to provide better outcomes for students. Guilford County was selected as a Say Yes to Education community in a move that will provide county public school graduates with the opportunity for college scholarships by spring 2016.
One of Schoolhouse Partners’ reports stated that the school district “runs lean” and spends 95 cents of each dollar on programs for students and teachers.
“It’s not the case that there’s just a lot of money sloshing around the system and potentially being wasted,” said Mark Strickland, managing director of Schoolhouse Partners.

Guilford County, which receives most of its funding from the state, spends less than $10,000 per student, he said.
“If you look at the spending in Guilford County relative to K-12 spending per student nationally, Guilford County is below the mean,” Strickland said. “It’s well below the mean for other cities that have implemented Say Yes to Education.”
Strickland said that in general, North Carolina and its school districts don’t spend as much on public K-12 education as other states do. For example, districts like Buffalo, N.Y., that have implemented Say Yes programs spend more than twice as much as Guilford does, he said. The costs of living in Buffalo and Guilford County are about the same.
The report also noted that the local school system needs improvement in areas such as SAT and ACT scores, third-grade reading scores and fifth-grade language arts assessments. Schoolhouse Partners said students who receive free or reduced-price lunch and students of color fare worse than white students. White students are seven times more likely than African-American students to reach the ACT benchmark by 11th grade.

Another Schoolhouse Partners report highlighted areas of strength, including:
Guilford’s 2014 four-year graduation rate was higher than the state average and the highest among the five largest districts in North Carolina.
Nearly nine in 10 students who begin ninth grade in GCS are expected to graduate.
The district has done an excellent job of making Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and college courses available to students. Nearly half of the class of 2014 took an AP exam, compared with 31 percent of students in North Carolina.
“This widespread use of a college preparatory schedule, even for groups of students who are not demonstrating high levels of success on various assessment instruments, along with the efforts to get students back on track after slipping off schedule, is evidence of the district’s commitment to college access for all students,” according to the report.
Strickland also told the Triad Business Journal that the school district’s leadership was “as collaborative, transparent and constructive as anybody we have worked with.”
“We had full access to all data that was available,” Strickland said. “The central office invested time to understand and participate in the process and really talk through our finding and recommendations.”

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