When I was a superintendent, going to the grocery store was something to be avoided. You never know who you will run into in the canned foods section, and a jumbo can of baked beans can make a dangerous projectile if launched by an angry patron. Better safe and hungry than full and chewed on. In my new position, I am far less likely to encounter an angry legislator because they mostly do their shopping at home.
Even more exciting is that now that I live in the big city, a supermarket really is SUPER! And by that I mean the selection of Ben and Jerry’s ranges far beyond just Cherry Garcia and Chubby Hubby! City life has some drawbacks, (among them leaf-obsessed neighbors and doggy poop police-topics for another day), but the frozen food fineries that can be found outweigh them all. From Americone Dream to What a Cluster, they’ve got it all.
Based upon my love of ice cream and the wintery wonderland to be explored, it should not have been any surprise that when I had my physical this year, my doctor told me I needed to lose three pounds. (Yes, three pounds. Three pounds this week. Three pounds next week. Etc. Etc. Isn’t she funny?) I still love going to the grocery store, but I spend less time staring through the frozen fog at my favorite flavors.
In fact, if you were to monitor my grocery cart, you would find that I am buying more healthy food and less ice cream. Way less ice cream.
But suppose you wanted to discredit my claim that I am buying less ice cream? Here’s how you could do it: Divide my grocery purchases into two different categories: Let's say fruits/vegetables and ice cream/other. Now compare my pre-physical and post-physical grocery cart and you might find that pre-physical I was buying ten different fruits and vegetables and 20 ice cream and others. Post physical, I am buying 12 different fruits and vegetables and 30 ice cream and others. Look! John is ignoring his doctor and spending all of his money on ice cream!
The truth is, Ben and Jerry’s is pricy, so if I stop buying it, I can buy more items and stay within my budget. I can buy more tofu (as if), lean meats, soup, beans, things that are good for me,not to mention dog food, (We added another dog to the family, thus the increased mouths to feed.) but your arbitrary assignment of two categories tells a different tale. If this story sounds familiar, lets look at another data set that is making the rounds in some political circles:
The graph is accurate. More teachers were added than students. KSDE reports that most of these positions were either because districts added All Day Kindergarten or Special Education positions. Districts also added both teaching and other staff because of special education and implementation of interventions for students.
But the graph appears to be trying to lead the reader to the conclusion that administrative positions have increased. KSDE budget information by function, available since 2002 shows that districts have spent less on administration over the past ten years, and more on instruction.
If we are to have a reasonable discussion of school efficiency, it is important that we use data, but not just try to mold the data to support our previously held beliefs. Carol Pitts often tells us that if you torture a number long enough, it will say anything you want it to. Waterboarding the data is not how we will find answers to being more efficacious.