School Choice & Class Size Information

Managing Class size in the Ashland School District

Educational Choices in Ashland School District: Neighborhood Schools, Choice Schools And Alternative Programs

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Managing Class size in the Ashland School District

We value the input of our families in the Ashland School District. Recently, families have engaged in important discussions about our policies and practices in regard to the on-going challenges of managing class sizes, particularly in our elementary schools. Based on input from our Parent/Guardian Meeting in January, and our continued research, we are proceeding with several changes in practice, aimed at helping us sustain and improve the learning opportunities for our students, and maintain lower class sizes, especially in the critical Kindergarten through 3rd grade years:
              

1.  During Parent-Teacher conferences in March, all K-4th grade parents/guardians were asked to tell us which school(s) in our district they most want their children to attend next year. This information will give us a clear indication of the overall interest for each of our schools. It is important to note, just because we are asking, we are neither encouraging families to leave the school their child is presently in, nor can we promise that we can honor every request for transfer.

              

2. March is Open Enrollment month in the State of Oregon. This year, we are changing our open enrollment goals, asking all potential, out-of-district open enrollment families to share which school(s) they want their children to attend next year, with the written understanding that if we do not have sufficient students apply to warrant the hiring of an additional teacher, we will limit open enrollment based on class size targets and space available in our schools.

Both of these changes of practice will provide district leadership with valuable information, more than we have had access to in the past, and we will have potentially more class configuration options than ever before. By the end of the first week in April, the data gathering process will close, and we will be able to determine the feasibility of changes.
We do not anticipate that these changes by themselves will solve all the complexities inherent in managing class sizes. Therefore, we will combine them with additional strategies each spring and at the start of each year, and exercising greater control of the placement of mid-year move-ins. We are confident that these tools will result in consistently lower class sizes.

 Elementary Class Size Targets

Kindergarten      20
Grades 1-3          23​
Grades 4-5          27

Note: Class size targets are set to emphasis the importance of maintaining teacher-student ratios at a range that supports the student learning goals of the district. When a grade level average exceeds targets, that school’s principal and staff, working collaboratively with the Director of Instruction and Human Resources, will recommend possible solutions to the Superintendent. The Superintendent will make the final decision to add a teacher, part-time math and/or reading teachers, classroom aides, temporarily transfer new students, and/or maintain the status quo.
  
Elementary Class Size Management Decisions Timeline
 
March through May        

Continue working with our teachers and classified professional associations on the importance of prioritizing class size in this year’s budgeting and negotiation meetings.

March 30-April 10th         

Review Ashland parent intent to return data and open enrollment information; decide how many transfer requests we can approve, either school-to-school and/or district-to-district, giving priority to Ashland residents first, and then open enrollments that can help reduce existing class size.

April 13                              

Report to the school board and the community about our progress in regard to lowering class size using the information we have learned from the parent intent process in March, detailing decisions already made, and describing the next steps of the process.

April 14-May 11th            

In the May school board meeting, report on teacher placement, flexible staffing strategies, and the placement of extension classroom(s) for the following year.  An extension classroom is an additional class created to accommodate over-enrollment in a particular grade or location. This additional class may serve blended grade levels and may be located at a different school site. 

August-Sept 9th                

Call and verify student enrollments, check actual class counts in the first week of school, and finalize teacher staffing placement.

Sept. 14th-May 2016       

Enroll new Ashland resident students to our district, and initiate new Class Size Administrative Rules outlined below:

II.New families who move into the Ashland School District during the summer or after school starts will be able to attend their neighborhood school IF elementary class size targets have not been reached. If class size levels are at or above targets in their neighborhood school, new students will be temporarily placed in another Ashland elementary school with lower class size until space is available. In the spring of each school year, enrollment priority for the following year will be given to the previous year’s, in-district, temporarily displaced students, with the annual goal being to approve as many students that wish to attend they neighborhood school as possible.

III.Each March, we will formally solicit in-district and out-of-district intent to transfer and/or enroll information from parents.

IV.Each April, we will review transfer and enrollment requests; priority will be given to students who recently moved into the school district but had to be temporarily placed in another school due to elementary class size target protocol and existing Ashland resident transfer requests. Out-of-district requests made through open enrollment will be approved based on space and staff availability, and class size targets.

V.Each May, if the following year’s predicted class size counts are above targets, we will use the flow chart to prioritize the temporary transfer of students: CHART CLICK HERE

 

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Educational Choices in Ashland School District: Neighborhood Schools, Choice Schools And Alternative Programs


K-5 Neighborhood Elementary Schools
Ashland has three neighborhood elementary schools: Bellview, Helman and Walker Elementary Schools.
Each school is currently staffed to serve approximately 300 students and has space to serve some additional students if needed.  The schools have roughly comparable staffing including Title I programs, Child Development Specialists, PE, Music and special education services.

The District has two district-wide programs where children from any school may attend if they have an identified need.  Walker houses the English Language Learner (ELL) program which serves the small number of limited English proficient learners in the district.  Bellview currently houses a district-wide special education classroom for students with moderate to severe disabilities.  Transportation is available for students in any school zone that require one of the district-wide programs. 
 
K-8 Choice School and Alternative Program: A Brief History
Ashland also operates a K-8 ‘choice school,’ John Muir, that serves about 125 students and Willow Wind, a K-8 alternative program, that serves about 170 full-time students and about 30 -35 part-time students.
In 2006, there was an interest in the community in offering a K-8 school option.  The school board at the time conducted a district wide survey and needs assessment to see if families were interested in a K-8 option.  As an outcome of this process, the John Muir School was created.  It is a K-8 mixed grade ‘choice school’ that students from anywhere in the District can choose to attend. 

Almost 20 years ago, Willow Wind opened as a home-schooling outreach program to introduce home-schoolers to the district and respond to community interests for alternative K-8 options.  By increasing the total number of students served in the District, Willow Wind helped the overall scalability and provision of services in all of our schools.
In the beginning, all of the Willow Wind students were part-time homeschoolers.  Overtime, Willow Wind initiated a full time alternative program and increased the number of full-time students to its current size.  As a state recognized alternative program, Willow Wind has a different set of operating requirements than formal ‘schools’ as defined under state law.  Students enrolled in alternative education programs are those whose educational needs and interests are best served by participation in such programs which are designed to “provide innovative and more flexible ways of educating children.”  Because of its unique schedule and structure, Willow Wind is able to offer lower class sizes to students while operating at a lower per-pupil cost than other K-8 schools.  The additional revenue generated by Willow Wind goes to support reduced class size across the district.  
 
COMPARABILITY

SY 13-14 Actual Expenditures Sample Enrollment Full Time ADMr Cost Per Pupil Average Class Size by FTE  
Bellview 1,749,567 304 281.34 $5,755.15 26.57  
Helman 1,771,781 303 274.29 $5,847.46 26.48  
Walker 1,750,518 285 260.65 $6,142.17 25.53 **
Willow Wind 905,030 172 FT
31 PT
167.36 FT
5.2 PT
$5,261.80 FT
 
34.5 FT ***
John Muir 599,427 99 94.97 $6,054.82  25.00  
AMS 4,249,551 578 578.19 $7,352.16  26.95  
** Walker cost per pupil reflects the overflow kindergarten classroom
*** Willow Wind has full time (FT) and part-time (PT) students
 
 
What are the differences between Schools, Choice Schools and Alternative Programs?
  Schools Choice Schools Alternative Program
Scope of program Comprehensive school program Comprehensive school program with specialized focus Targeted alternative for students that meet program criteria as determined by the District; may provide some or all of the options/resources available at a school
Who can attend? Resident students and approved transfers Resident students and approved transfers as space allows; lottery held if more demand than space Determined by the District based on stated purpose of the program;  students must meet defined eligibility criteria of the program; residents and approved transfers may apply
Process in Ashland Register Apply; lottery if interest exceeds space Apply and interview; eligible students admitted as space allows
Resources in Ashland Access to special education, Title programs, counseling, etc. Access to special education, Title programs, counseling, etc. Not required to provide all of the resources of a formal "school" under state law; serves students with disabilities who otherwise meet the requirements of the program; special education services provided at neighborhood schools in most cases

 
Additional Resources:
Oregon Revised Statute on Alternative Programs
http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/336.615
 
Division 22 Standards for Schools and Alternative Programs:
[581-022-1350 Alternative Education Programs]
http://arcweb.sos.state.or.us/pages/rules/oars_500/oar_581/581_022.html
 
ODE Alternative Program Guidance
http://www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?=732




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