On the Beat in Bluffton

Thursday, April 24, 2014

(Some of the) Wells County school numbers are in

The Indiana Department of Education has spread a 500-plus piece puzzle out on the taxpayers’ and parents’ tables.

When it’s assembled, officials say, the completed picture reveals their schools’ performances.

School administrators, however, say it appears that some pieces of the puzzle are either missing or inaccurate.

For instance, the state requires the districts to report how they spend their money. In particular, school officials must tally the percent of expenditures dedicated to academic achievement. In the 2012-2013 school year, Northern Wells, Bluffton-Harrison and Southern Wells dedicated 43.2, 50.3 and 53.9 percent of spending respectively for “academic achievement.” However, the numbers don’t reveal what specific expenses exalt academic achievement.

This category would presumably include teacher salaries and benefits, but does it also include classroom supplies? Does it include interactive white boards, such as the SMART Board technology? What about instruments for the band? Band students need them for academic achievement, and yet, they are perhaps more costly than typical classroom supplies but impact a smaller percentage of students than textbooks.

Or does the state instruct school administrators to tally musical instruments, SMART Boards, and crayons and scissors under the “instructional support expenditures” category? The state doesn’t list any examples to help clarify the distinction between the two. Instead, according to the guide that complements the statistics, “percent academic achievement expenditures” is defined as “percentage of total spending for academic achievement.” Also, “percent instructional support expenditures” is defined as “percentage of total spending for instructional support.” The statistics also don’t trace the districts’ spending for academic achievement back to the districts’ schools.

Furthermore, the report doesn't specify if the percentages represent an average of the district’s three schools’ spending for academic achievement? Do individual schools make such distinctions?

Learn more about the reports — and see the reports — in the Thursday, April 24, News-Banner.

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