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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

School District Fails 'Productivity' Test

New Report Blasts Emery Unified
School District Among Most Unproductive In State

A damning report that illuminates the nexus between academic results and spending per pupil was released in January that shows Emery Unified School District among the worst in the State.   The nation wide report, a culmination of a year long comprehensive project conducted by the Center for American Progress, shows how a school district's 'productivity' is crucial in raising academic performance and how Emery Unified, a very unproductive district, ranked 38 on the State Achievement Index for $8563 spent per pupil against a state wide average 59 achievement for $6,900 spent per pupil.

The productivity of a school, the report shows, throws cold water on the old adage that student achievement rises with money spent and implicates the district, not the children in the poor academic performance.

Emery Unified School District is shown to be an outlier in terms of productivity; rating some of the worst scores on the 'return on investment' index, combining the lowest achievement with some of the highest costs, a sobering statistic in light of the nearly $400 million the district is poised to spend on new facilities passed by voters in November.  In the report entitled "Doing What Works", the Center for American Progress concludes, "The bottom line is additional dollars make a difference only if the funds are well spent".

Perhaps too early to raise arms in celebration:
 Council member Ruth Atkin, on right, joins hands 
with School Board member Melodi Dice
The district-by-district evaluation decouples the normal impediments to academic achievement based on parental income from administrative inefficiencies, making it harder to solely blame poor kids for low test scores.  In the case of the Emery school district, the report shows the district itself is failing the kids.

Productivity can be seen as efficiency and the report measures the academic achievement a district produces relative to its educational spending, while controlling for cost of living and students living in poverty.  The report also shows how unproductive districts like Emery spend  more on administration but  that an increase in productivity alone could raise academic achievement by up to 25% regardless of low parental income.

Emery Unified with its 38 ranking on the State achievement index and with $8563 per pupil stands out among its neighbors as a low productivity district even when compared to Oakland with a 39 State achievement but only $5782 spending per pupil.  Emery has a 80% low income rating versus Oakland's 72%.  Farmersville Unified School District in the central valley rates the same as Emery on the achievement index and surpasses it with 84% low income but spends only $6472 per pupil.  Also Pittsburg Unified School District in the Bay Area shares the same achievement ranking with Emery but spends only $4992 with 72% low income.

These numbers are in stark contrast with Albany Unified School District which rates 77 on the State achievement and only $6,187 per pupil and 22% low income rating and Alameda Unified at 66 on the achievement index at only $5,299 per pupil and 32% low income.  Berkeley has a 58 achievement for $8,034 at 40% low income.

The Center for American Progress is a progressive public policy research and advocacy organization based in Washington DC. 

The entire project with attendant reports can be accessed here:


  1. I would invite everyone who is interested in this to look at the actual report. The report is absolutely coupled to parents income so the statement made above "The district-by-district evaluation decouples the normal impediments to academic achievement based on parental income from administrative inefficiencies, making it harder to solely blame poor kids for low test scores." is B.S. The report does not take into account any test scores whatsoever. I urge you to look at the correlation between ranking and percent low income. Emeryville has a poverty ranking of 80% yet is still ranked above the bottom 1/3. Also it is apparent that districts with lower percent poverty spend less per student. This is due to parents themselves kicking in more funding per student which is not accounted for in this study. If you take parental funding into account those ranked highest actually spend MORE per student. Brian's rant above is nothing more that a hyperbolic scare tactic. Read the facts yourself and don't rely on lazy 3rd party interpretations.

  2. EUSD does spend WAY too much on administrators.
    The high school has 6 people to run the front office operations, and 3 counselors for a student body of ~350-400. The finance department has 4 people in it, down from the record high of 5.
    They spend thousands of dollars on projects that go nowhere. The school spent 30k on an animation system, and they wont hire someone to teach a class, so now it sits in a closet collecting dust. 20k for the floor in the atrium. The classified staff, on average, gets paid 50% of market value for the jobs they do. The teachers get paid ~20-30% less than their colleagues in other districts. At those wages, you aren't going to have an easy time attracting competent people.

  3. Note to readers-
    The first commenter makes a good suggestion: please look at the actual report.

    The study intends to look beyond the already well documented correlation between lower academic achievement and parental income. The study is about productivity in a school district independent of parental income. This is about how well a district uses its resources to positivly effect student academic achievement.

    A reading of the entire report shows how money spent doesn't directly translate into student performance, regardless of claims to the contrary from the commenter.

    The report clearly shows Emery United is a low productivity school district and this is not a good thing. It is counter productive (and innacurate) to throw up our hands and blame this on parental income. If the school district isn't doing a good job with the resourses it has, the public needs to know about it. Blind allegiance to the administrators at the district isn't an effective way to help the children's educational prospects.

    The report is unequivocal: Emery is spending alot and getting very little, worse than almost every other district but it also holds out hope for turning the situation around by increasing productivity.

    Please do read the report.

  4. Brian-
    I am the first anonymous commenter..
    Your follow up comment was a much more thoughtful and well put argument. I actually agree with you in that blind allegiance is counterproductive and that the administrators need to be held accountable. On the other hand I have lived in this little town since 1995 and have seen the improvement in the school district. Yes we need to improve but we also need to look back once in a while and see where we have come from. Attacking and putting "MOST UNPRODUCTIVE IN THE STATE" as your lede just isn't true. And please, look at the Berkeley Parent's Network once in a while. You'll see that in those local districts that made the top 25%, parents are EXPECTED to kick in $15,000 per year. That IS NOT accounted for in that study and my family certainly doesn't pay that much for our children at Anna Yates. We couldn't possibly kick in that much.

  5. What is most shameful is that such problems exist in a tiny district of three, no, make that TWO schools. A school district serving 600 students like Emery should be decisive, nimble and lean....there should be NO red tape, dead weight, inertia or waste. There is no large bureaucracy, no fiefdoms of myopic constituencies impeding progress.
    The mismanagement within Emery Unified must be epic if they achieve the current results with their current resources. Please contact the Alameda County District Attorney's office and the state District Attorney.
    Smash Emeryville Corruption Now!

  6. If the Tattler reported that Emery Unified School District was the most unproductive in the State according to the Center for American Progress, that would be untrue.

    If the Tattler reported that Emery Unified School District were among the most unproductive in the State according to the Center for American Progress, that would be true.

    It would be bad if the Tattler reported untrue stories but it would be good if the Tattler reported true stories.

    Please check to see how the Tattler reported the story.

  7. The Center for American Progress’s own disclaimer on their data cautions against the type of conclusions this blog has drawn. If this blog wants to portray itself as a worthy source of information, it should exercise a higher degree intellectual integrity. This type of yellow journalism does a disservice to our community.

  8. The Center for American Progress does indeed caution against taking too much from the data in their study. However, that doesn't mean nothing can be taken. Emery Unified School District has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the worst State wide according to the report and so Emeryville residents have a right to know that. It's informative that the school district has not voluntarily made this study public.

    This is not a study the school district would want the public to know about. Indeed, the government officials and those who would defend them would rather the community not take anything from this study, after all that's in their interest, overheated claims of public service notwithstanding. A great deal of incompetence can hide behind such claims.

  9. The information published is public already. You are making a veiled accusation of the District intentionally keeping residents in the dark about this. Maybe the District should have spent some money printing and posting a letter to the community telling them that The center for American Progress proclaims them to be the worst in the State. Yeah then Brian would be happy. That's a much better use of the precious funds.
    Brian Donahue.....
    Emeryville's Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly mashed into one. Fantastic "reporting." FOX news would be proud.

  10. Maybe the District should have posted the link to the Center for American Progress study on their website at no cost to them, then Brian (and the rest of Emeryville) would be happy.

    Or more likely, the District says nothing and hopes Emeryville residents go on believing the District's version of the truth and the rest of Emeryville is happy and clueless. "We're getting better, always getting better".

  11. I'd say rather than income correlating to student performance, it's parent involvement.
    Parents that expect the school to raise their children have poorly performing kids. If there is no support for education and a push from the parents in the home, nothing the school does will make a meaningful difference.

    It's not about the money, it's about the value of getting an education in the home that makes the biggest difference.

  12. Maybe if district administrators were doing their jobs in the schools instead of displaying their sycophancy by trashing Brian and the Tattler on the taxpayers' dime, maybe our schools wouldn't be in the woeful shape they are.

  13. There is no evidence that any of the anonymous postings here derive from the school district.

  14. I agree with the poster above that states "parent involvement" is the most important factor in school performance. There's no doubt that the Schools in Emeryville are terrible! Look at any of the websites that rate student performance and Emeryville Schools are at the bottom. Interestingly enough, the Ralph Hawley School on 61st St has been the temporary School used by the Piedmont School district for the last 2 years and shows outstanding student performance! I'm quite sure that the families that live in Emeryville that are concerned about education and have the means are sending their children to private Schools, ex- Council member West! One of the first things families that are looking to relocate look at is the quality of the Schools! Emeryville doesn't need more "family friendly housing" because families aren't moving here due to the very poor performance of the Schools. How to fix it???? Here you go!
    1. Parent involvement
    2. Quality Administrators and quality teachers( pay market rate)
    3. Set a performance standard and expel those that can't perform!
    4. Provide enough funding for educational materials
    5. Hold the students, teachers, administrators and parents accountable!
    For those that are interested, " is an interesting website. Spend some time on this site and I think you will become enlightened on where the good schools are and where they are not located. Compare the high scoring schools with the real estate prices and average income and many things become clear!