Comments about ICCSD’s Examination of School Building Boundaries

Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) is in the process of examining where to assign students to schools.  As part of that process, it has considered factors such as socio-economic status.

1.  Since socioeconomic status only correlates with, and does not cause, achievement, why not also consider what standardized test scores will look like under proposed scenarios? Aggregate test scores could be examined at individual schools by quartiles or by low proficient, proficient, and high proficient ranges. In the aggregate, an examination of test score data would be more narrowly tailored to the end goal of achievement and would likely show better than socioeconomic status where to allocate resources.  An analysis of the percentage of students falling into test score ranges could also be used to ensure that there are sufficient numbers of students present to provide resources in an economically efficient manner and to provide sufficient and similar course offerings for all achievement levels at the junior high and high school levels.

2.  Additionally, why consider only a linear junior high feeder system? Why not consider building more flexibility into the system of assigning students to high schools? Northwest Junior High currently sends students to both West and City High Schools. Were sufficient numbers of students moved, children would still move on to high school with other children they know. This could be of benefit if future residential growth patterns vary across the district. At a minimum, the board should consider making at least one junior high (likely Northwest Junior High) feed more than one high school and evaluate the current and future expenses of keeping a linear junior high feeder system. Otherwise, the district may be creating a Cadillac system it cannot afford to maintain over time or the district may end up with a feeder system of schools with great variation among aggregate achievement data.

3.  Spending authority is likely to be an issue as new schools come on board. Rather than closing more elementary schools in the future, analyze the impact to the general fund with specificity prior to making decisions about feeder systems and attendance areas and be transparent with the public about what ICCSD can afford to operate before any bond vote.

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