On Monday night School Board member Robina Bouffault (White Post) presented her plan for reorganizing Clarke County Public School’s advanced education program. Bouffault said that her approach is the best way to deal with declining student enrollment and declining school revenue support and added that reorganization of programs like International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement are necessary if the school system hopes to achieve its performance goals.
“The question is how to continue to offer to our students at CCHS advanced and vocational offerings as we have in the past with fewer students, while at the same time improving the less than stellar performance to-date – and all of this with fewer resources” Bouffault said. “A daunting task, but I believe doable.”
Bouffault offered her plan for consideration by other School Board members on Monday night and prior to an upcoming School Board planning session scheduled for October 5. Monday night’s meeting was the second of two meetings intended to allow the School Board to ask questions about Clarke County’s supplemental education offering including IB, AP, Bridge, Dual Enrollment, vocational and technical career training.
At the meeting Bouffault characterized CCPS as being hit by a “double whammy”; declining enrollment figures, which have resulted in lower state educational funding support, and overall state and federal education funding support that continues struggle.
As of September 6th, CCPS’s overall school enrollment was 2,093 pupils according to CCPS Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy. CCPS’s average daily membership (ADM), the student enrollment count that drives most state funding for public education, was 2,166 for the 2008-2009 school year.
Clarke County High School’s enrollment has also fallen.
“Last year, in the fall of 2010, the CCHS full-time membership was 728” said Bouffault. “This year, it is currently listed as being 670. That is drop of 58 students, with little expectation of any major increases for FY13. For FY13, the Clarke County School Division is faced with a double problem that will require innovative measures, if we are to escape unscathed the negative consequences.”
But Bouffault says that declining student census counts are only part of the problem and believes that poor funding will continue to be a problem for the foreseeable future.
“The FY13 budget is going to be a very poor one, certainly the worst one this division has known to-date, due to both major state and federal cuts” Bouffault said. “Asking that local funding, which is already substantial, to make up 100% of the difference is unrealistic.”
Bouffault claims that for FY10, Clarke County ranked 18th out of 94 counties in local school funding.
Given the challenges of declining enrollment and school funding, Bouffault hopes to convince fellow School Board members that corrective action is needed in each of CCPS’s five advanced education programs:
IB Diploma Program
“Our school division has gotten away from the original intent of this program” Bouffault said. “We call it the â€˜IB Program’, when in fact, it is the IB Diploma Program, and it is structured for those students taking the full IB Diploma – tests and all.”
Bouffault said that allowing â€˜open enrollment’ in the courses, with no requirements to take any tests, is too costly, inefficient and difficult for teachers to coordinate and said that she would like to limit the IB Diploma to 20 “slots” for the entire IB Diploma program. Bouffault would like to ensure that all students who enroll be prepared to pursue the full diploma with testing in all six subjects areas as well as the Theory of Knowledge course and the Extended Essay.
“Students who apply must be recommended by their teachers, and have a minimal Grade Point Average to be determined by faculty” Bouffault said. “Subject choices in each category would be limited and adapted to the students’ abilities, not offering all of the subjects that IBO/Geneva proposes.
Bouffault believes that a limited IB programs would mean that fewer teachers will be required to teach the chosen subjects, freeing up staff for the other programs. As a result, Bouffault says, teachers will have more homogenous classes of diploma students all studying the same curriculum.
“Teachers will no longer be trying to teach two or three curricula in the same classroom at the same time” Bouffault said. “They won’t have to wear so many different hats”.
Bouffault is recommending that the IB costs be paid by the school division and incorporated into the FY13 budget. By having a pre-determined number of IB slots, Bouffault says, the program’s cost will be well-known in advance.
“The overall cost should not exceed $40,000 and cost efficiencies in limiting the numbers of IB courses should contribute to a good bottom line” Bouffault said.
College Board Advanced Placement (AP)
Bouffault said that while the AP program has a more scientific and mathematical attraction, it also has the advantage of being accepted in nearly every college and university in our country provided that students score well enough on tests offers a higher number of â€˜singleton’ courses – a single course with no requirement for any group of subjects or diplomas – which she believes makes it ideal for CCPS’s advanced science and math students.
Bouffault noted that AP is also the least expensive of the advanced education programs.
“By limiting the IB program to diploma students only, we will free up some of our teachers to allow, at no extra cost, a good development of our AP offerings” Bouffault said. “If we add the AP Virtual Virginia offerings, our division should be in a position to offer a fairly complete list of AP courses, with little in the way of cost implications. Focus on the AP Virtual Virginia courses will need to be emphasized.”
“The Dual Enrollment program is an extremely important program that must be continued and encouraged” Bouffault said.
“In 2010, we had 310 student/courses enrolled for LFCC, and while this dropped in 2011, there were still 284 students/courses. 2012 is still unknown, however there are fewer courses being offered than previously.” Bouffault said .
Bouffault said that Dual Enrollment courses are the most cost efficient and rewarding programs because they allow students the possibility of college credits at minimal cost while, at the same time, opening college doors to students state-wide.
“It is important for our school division to continue to develop these programs in the high school, and to make sure that a maximum number of our teachers have a Masters in the subject matter they are teaching, to ensure that they all meet the LFCC dual enrollment eligibility requirements” Bouffault said. “I believe that narrowing the focus of the IB and AP programs will help our DE courses as well, with not only highly qualified, but duly certified and trained teachers being required for them all.”
“Our Honors courses need to live up to their name” Bouffault said. “A narrow focus on our SOL curriculum with â€˜specialized’ teachers who are not wearing two or three other â€˜advanced’ hats, should ensure a good improvement in results. The Master Schedule will need a serious overhaul.”
Bouffault said that eliminating Bridge, a program that allows students to earn college credit at James Madison University, would not in any way adversely affect CCPS’s college-bound students.
“Elimination of this program will free up teacher periods that can be dedicated to other courses” Bouffault said. “The $10,000 cost, currently paid for by the Clarke County Education Foundation, can be transferred to our other programs.”
School Board Planning Session
While Bouffault’s program realignment plan will be considered by the School Board and school officials at the October 5th planning session, the plan faces an uphill challenge to adoption. With elections only weeks away, even if Boffault’s plan were adopted in total, an extremely unlikely event given the School Board’s divided position on the topic of advanced programs, the new School Board will be under no obligation to necessarily support the changes.
Similarly, given the complexity and magnitude of the suggested changes, which school administration and faculty have yet to comment on, Bouffault’s plan will more likely lay a foundation for discussion by the next School Board should they elect to continue the advanced education debate.