Data Viz Done Right

June 7, 2011

Facts are friendly: Why Cobb County should keep the balanced calendar

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NOTE: The data and charts in this post are excerpts from “The Citizens Report on the Cobb County School District Attendance Calendar”.  There are limitations on the data, but overall I think you’ll agree that the School Board has made an incredible unwise decision to revert to the traditional school calendar.


Summary
The data shows overwhelming support for the Balanced Calendar by all stakeholder groups: teachers, staff, parents, students, and the community. The data points are:

  • 2009 Employee Survey
  • 2011 Calendar Survey
  • Board Member Reports & Email Counts
  • 2011 Cobb County Association of Educators Survey

The results of these four data points are remarkably consistent. When presented with the opportunity for a school calendar with a shorter summer and additional week-long breaks versus a later August start date and no additional week-long breaks, all stakeholder groups strongly prefer a calendar with a shorter summer and additional week-long breaks.

Across all data points the margin of preference for the Balanced Calendar is significant, averaging 76.1%. The support ranges from a low of 61.0% to a high of 88.2%.

Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS)
Grade Equivalency (GE) scores for Cobb’s third, fifth, and seventh graders had all been declining in recent years. However, for the first time since 2007, ITBS GE scores in Cobb County increased in 2010 in all of these grade levels.

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End-of-Course Test (EOCT)
Results in ELA and Social Studies have maintained a slight but steady increase through the 2010-2011 school year. Results in Science showed a slight decrease in 2010-2011, returning to their 2008 level of 71% meeting or exceeding standards. After a 23% decline in 2008-2009, results in Math dramatically improved by 26% in 2009-2010. They continued to improve by another 11% to 75% in 2010-2011, reaching a level not obtained since 2006-2007.

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Teacher absences
Absences down significantly YTD through March 2011 as compared to the last three school years.


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This amounts to 15,008.7 fewer days teachers were absent in 2010-2011 versus 2009-2010 through March. This has two benefits. The first is the direct benefit of lower expenses for substitute teachers. Specifically, the direct financial savings are $1,118,381.26 YTD through March 2011, due to lower expenses for substitute teachers. Second, our students benefited by having their own certified teachers in the classroom more often.

Student absenteeism
Absenteeism was down 27,600 days in the first semester of the 2010-2011 school year (August - December 2010). This represents a decrease of 7.5% district-wide as compared to the first semester of the 2009-2010 school year.

Of 120 schools, 75.8% reported improvements in student attendance and 24.2% reported an increase in student absenteeism. As student attendance is the second AYP indicator for elementary and middle schools, the influence of the school calendar on student attendance is vitally important.

Student Discipline
Data available from the Georgia Department of Education (DIS010) through May 17, 2011 shows:

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Once the year-end data is available for 2010-2011, the results will need to be adjusted for inclement weather days and the shorter 175-day school year. In total, these two factors should account for 3.4% of any decrease in student discipline.

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