Category Archives: Finances

AP Exams – Return on Investment

On Monday, the School District Administration will be asking the DeKalb Board of Education to approve $425,000 to purchase one AP exam for all students currently enrolled in an Advanced Placement Course.

The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) will pay for one Advanced Placement exam for students who qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch program. Additionally, the GaDOE will cover the cost of one Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) focused Advanced Placement exam for all non-free and reduced lunch students.

Return on Investment
The school district has paid for these additional AP exams for many years. Is this money well spent? What results are we seeing? Unfortunately, less than 10% of the students in half our high schools score high enough on these AP exams to receive college credit. Given this, combined with the fact that many DeKalb students will already get 2 free exams provided by the state, is this the best use of $425,000? Could this money be used in another way that improved educational outcomes and produced a higher return on investment?


DeKalb Schools AP Exam Scores

Any score that’s 3 or higher is considered a passing score, though some colleges only accept 4s and 5s for credit. I drilled down into exam results of Towers HS and MLK Jr HS to better understand their performance. Towers has a 1% pass rate and MLK has a 4% pass rate. Here’s how that breaks down.

Given these numbers, I was curious about the distribution of grades in these AP classes. In theory, your class performance should be a good predictor of how likely you are to pass the exams. The class average information that I was provided shows that these schools have class averages of 83% to 89%. The class averages do not seem to correlate with, or predict, success on the AP exams. It would be interesting to see the class average data for schools that have higher AP success rates. What if the grade averages are similar even though they have much higher AP success rates? What would that tell us about instruction and grading across the district? How can we use this data to drive more AP exam successes? Is the best use of resources to pay for more exams or improve instruction?

The following are the class final grade averages for each subject.

I asked DeKalb Schools Chief Academic Officer, Stacy Stepney, and the DeKalb Schools Interim Associate Superitendent of Accountability, Dr. Linda Frazer, to explain the rationale for this expense.

Question: The school district is asking for over $400K for Advanced Placement exams. Almost half the schools had less than a 10% pass rate. Is this the best use of our money? Wouldn’t that money be better spent on remediation?

Answer: According the 2014-2019 Strategic Plan, the District’s strategic goal area 1 is “Student Success with Equity and Access”. (See the attached 2018-2019 Strategic Plan Profile.) One of the identified performance objectives is to provide equitable access to academically rigorous courses and programs. As a result, the District considered the baseline data in 2013-2014 to identify targets for 2014-2019. The District has implemented several initiatives and developed performance measures to address equity and access. The performance measures included:

• Increase the percentage of graduates earning high school credits for accelerated enrollment via ACCEL, Dual HOPE Grant, Move On When Ready, Early College, Gateway to College, Advanced Placement courses, or International Baccalaureate courses
• Increase the number of males of color taking advanced courses (i.e. Honors, AP, and IB)
• Increase the number of females of color taking advanced courses (i.e. Honors, AP, and IB)
• Increase the percentage of students scoring 3 or higher on the Advanced Placement exam

The most important predictor of college success is an academically rigorous high school experience. AP, IB, and dual enrollment provide students access to academically rigorous coursework; therefore, the District is requesting to purchase one AP exam for all students.

Question: If the experience of taking advanced placement exams is extremely valuable, couldn’t we do mock examinations much cheaper?

Response: CollegeBoard has released questions, so teachers may create free, mock exams to prepare for the AP examinations in May. Mock exams will not afford students the opportunity to exempt equivalent college-level courses if they earn 3 or higher.

FY2020 – Tentative Budget

After numerous calls from the vice chair for a motion, the board reluctantly passed the DeKalb Schools FY2020 tentative budget. CFO Michael Bell and Interim Chief Human Capital Management Officer, Linda Woodard, also responded to some follow up budget questions from last week. Let’s go through the good, the bad and the ugly.

6/10/2019 – DETAILED Budget (2,300 pages)
6/10/2019 – Approved Tentative Budget
5/6/2019 – Budget

June 4, 2019 – $3,000 Raise – Q&A With The CFO
May 25, 2019 – $3,000 – Teacher Raises – Metro Atlanta
May 11, 2019 – FY2020 – Budget – No Raise For Teachers

We started this year (FY2018) with a fund balance of $122 million. As we close out the end of the year, it looks like we will dip into our reserves for $10 million and start next year with $112 million.

The board was hesitant to pass the tentative budget which is anticipated to draw down reserves another $28 million … up from a projected $14 million in in May.

DeKalb Schools is projected to draw reserves down to $84 million by the end of FY2020.

FY2020 State QBE funds are $22 million more than last year. However, Dekalb Schools FTE numbers have gone from 100,648 to 99,837 which accounts for a large drop in QBE funding.

Using the old QBE formula, state revenues would be roughly $487 million. The Governor/Legislature bumped up QBE giving the school district roughly $28 million to $35 million that it wouldn’t have otherwise had.

The administration is requesting that we use $28 million for a $3,000 supplemental raise for certified staff as requested by the governor and legislated in HB 31.

An additional $12 million will be appropriated to fully fund a full year of the certified staff salary adjustments made last January.

It is anticipated that $5 million will be needed to fund the classified staff salary adjustments coming out later this month.

Linda Woodard

Linda Woodard
Interim Chief Human Capital Management Officer

DeKalb Schools CFO Michael Bell

Dr. Michael Bell
Dekalb Schools Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

Q: Are Speech and Language Pathologists included in HB31 that the state intended raises for?

Linda Woodard: No. However, Speech and Language Pathologists are on Certified Schedule Z with Counselors and have been budgeted to receive the increase (From HCM).

Q: What is meant by “earned” employee regarding the state funding?

Linda Woodard: “Earned” employees are those that are fully certified by the state’s Professional Standards Commission

Michael Bell: Our students actually earn FTE. The State pays the value of the FTE in the category reported, Xs the total number FTEs impacting QBE payments.

Q: How many certified teachers do we have on the teacher salary schedules? How many of them are “earned certified teachers”?

Linda Woodard & Michael Bell: There are 6,673 Teachers on Schedule E as of March 2019. The number considered earned is 6,095 (recommendation is to visit QBE in Finance (DoE Website) for exact earnings). *7,291 total employees on the E Schedule.

Q: Can you tell me more about non earned certified teachers on the teacher salary schedule? I don’t understand why we have them, how they are used or from what funds they are paid from.

Linda Woodard: Non-earned certified teachers are those that are working towards certification and have enough certification credentials that is allowed by the state. They are typically fully certified within 3 years depending on their specific cases

Michael Bell: Non QBE earned certified teachers operate within certain District programs that are FTE funded back at the Home School. The specific staff at the following programs are therefore locally funded:

Science Centers
International Student Centers
Technology Centers
Other Full Site Programs and Programs located within Schools

Some programs have secondary funding sources such as State/Federal or private grants – which usually do not cover the full costs.

Q: How many employees total are on teacher salary schedules?

Linda Woodard: 7,291 employees on E Salary Schedule What types of employees are not certified teachers that are on the teacher salary schedules?

Behavior Interventionist
Interpreter for the Deaf
Nurse, School (Special Ed)
Nurse, School Coordinating
Spec. II, Stud Supp (non-cert)
Specialist, Instructional FSC

Q: What schedules are psychologists, counselors, social workers, special education specialists and speech/language pathologists on?

Linda Woodard: Schedule Z (currently 1% higher than teacher rate) for Audiologist, Diagnostician, Liaison, Special Ed Behavior, Counselor, Psychologist, Social Worker, Teacher, Speech/Language Pathologist, Occupational Therapist and Physical Therapist. Schedule LT for Lead Teacher Special Education

Q: What other types of employees are on the schedules with psychologists, counselors, social workers, special education specialists and speech/language pathologists?

Linda Woodard: Audiologist, Diagnostician, Liaison, Special Ed Behavior, Teacher, Occupational Therapy and Teacher, Physical Therapy