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The Forum Voice: Spring 2002 (Volume 5, No. 1)


Contents

Collecting and Using School Facilities Data
Facilities Data: A Blueprint for Informing Policy
Safety in Numbers: Collecting and Using Crime, Violence and Discipline Data
Planning School Facilities Maintenance
A Letter from ASBO® International
NCEF… Facilities Resources Just a Mouse Click Away
The Forum in Action
Winter Forum 2002
Upcoming Events
2001-2002 Forum Officers
Newsletter Information

Editorial Board

Raymond Yeagley, Rochester Schools (NH)
Bill Smith, Sioux Falls School District (SD)
Nerissa Bretania-Shafer, Guam Department of Education
Roger Young, Haverhill Public Schools (MA)
Ghedam Bairu, NCES


Collecting and Using School Facilities Data

As America’s school buildings age, we face the growing challenge of maintaining our nation’s school facilities at a level that enables our teachers to meet the instructional needs of our children. Moreover, life inside our school buildings is changing as well. The 21st Century brings with it new demands on our school facilities — e.g., Are our schools safe and orderly? Are they clean and healthy? Are they technologically capable of supporting the needs of 21st Century learners? Are they cost-effective?

Do these factors really matter? Research shows…

checkmark icon A positive relationship exists between school conditions and student achievement and behavior [source: Lyons, John B. (2001) Do School Facilities Really Impact a Child’s Education? Scottsdale, AZ: Council of Educational Facility Planners International (PDF 100 KB). (http://www.cefpi.org:80/pdf/issue14.pdf)];
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checkmark icon Students who attend schools in poor condition score 11% lower than students who attend schools in excellent condition [source: American Association of School Administrators (1992) NASBE Building our Future: Making School Facilities Ready for the 21st Century. Washington, DC];

checkmark icon Physical conditions have a direct effect on teacher morale, sense of personal safety, and feelings of effectiveness in the classroom [source: Corcoran T.B., Walker L.J., and White J.L. (1998) Working in Urban Schools. Washington, DC: Institute for Educational Leadership]; and

Evaluating whether a school facility is safe, clean, healthy, instructionally supportive, and cost-effective can only be accomplished with reliable data. In fact, the National Forum on Education Statistics believes that good data are necessary for good decisionmaking on any front. This issue of the Forum Voice focuses on several resources the Forum is developing to help state and local education agencies more effectively collect and use data to inform the planning, management, and evaluation of school facilities.

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Facilities Data: A Blueprint for Informing Policy

There are more than 91,000 public schools in the United States governed by 15,000 school districts in 50 states and the extra-state jurisdictions. Thus, it may come as no surprise that there is a gap between facilities data maintained about schools and the information needed for planning and implementing policy at the district, state, and national levels.

Most facilities managers already collect data about their buildings and equipment-they probably know what year a school building was constructed, how much classroom space per student there is, and the annual emergency repairs budget. However, the question remains whether these data are collected and maintained in a way that is useful to operations managers, policymakers, and planners alike. In other words, are the data collected at the school level the same data needed to inform planning at the district, state, and national levels? Unless the data are collected in a systematic manner, it is likely that the answer to this question is a resounding “no,” which means that resources are not being used as efficiently as possible, and decision making may not be informed by high quality information.

In order to share best practices in the area of facilities data collection and use, the Forum is developing the Guide for Collecting and Using Data on Elementary and Secondary Educational Facilities, which is expected to be available in electronic and paper form by early 2003. Rather than providing a comprehensive list of school facility data elements, the Guide identifies and defines a set of data elements that are critical to answering five overarching policy questions related to elementary and secondary school facility management:

School Condition — Is the condition of the teaching, learning, and support service environments conducive to high quality education and its administration?

School Design — Are school buildings designed to support best educational practices?

School Use — Do schools provide sufficient space to accommodate changing enrollments and community use?

School Management — Are the education facilities managed effectively and efficiently?

School Funding — Are capital and operating funds for school facilities adequate, and are they equitably allocated and distributed?

The Guide for Collecting and Using Data on Elementary and Secondary Educational Facilities draws a vital (yet sometimes missing) link between policy needs and data collection strategies. The Guide will be of interest to a wide range of people who manage and plan education facilities in local or intermediate education agencies, including members of local school boards, state education agencies, and state boards of education, as well as government officials who depend upon accurate, reliable, and timely information to set long-term policy direction. For more information about the Guide for Collecting and Using Data on Elementary and Secondary Educational Facilities visit the project website at http://nces.ed.gov/forum/facilities.asp. Questions about the document or the Education Facilities Task Force can be directed to Ghedam Bairu.

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Safety in Numbers: Collecting and Using Crime, Violence and Discipline Data

Two new priorities have emerged for our schools in recent years. One is for schools to demonstrate that all children are meeting high academic standards as measured by national and state assessments. The other is to create a school environment that is free of violence and other crimes. But these are not separate missions. Children need safe and orderly schools in order to optimize learning.

Unfortunately, there is often a stigma attached to collecting crime, violence, and discipline data in schools. After all, each incident that gets reported documents an unwelcome event in the life of a school community—and some administrators are understandably reluctant to add more “trouble” to the official tally of what is happening in their buildings. However, collecting and using incident data is essential to creating safe schools. With reliable data it is possible to develop effective prevention and intervention plans. Without reliable data, conjecture, guesswork, and unsubstantiated hypotheses too frequently drive decisionmaking.

As part of an ongoing effort to promote data-driven educational policymaking, NCES and the Forum convened a task force to consider how to best collect and use crime, violence, and discipline data to improve schools. The task began by revising a 1996 Forum report titled Recommendations of the Crime, Violence, and Discipline Reporting Task Force (see http://nces.ed.gov/forum/publications.asp) and grew into a publication titled Safety in Numbers: Collecting and Using Crime, Violence and Discipline Data to Make a Difference in Schools, which will be released in summer 2002. Safety in Numbers is a collaborative report from state and school district administrators, education policy researchers, and U.S. Department of Education staff. It is designed for use by schools, districts, and states to improve the effectiveness of their efforts to collect and use disciplinary incident data.

Safety in Numbers provides recommendations on what types of crime, violence, and discipline data to collect, why it is critical to collect such data, and how the data can be used more effectively to improve school safety. Moreover, it presents best practice definitions and coding structures for developing a crime, violence, and discipline data system so that state and local education agencies can select applicable components to best meet their needs. The document also recommends that school staff store incident data in a relational database with separate modules for incident, perpetrator, victim, and disciplinary action-all linked to student and staff databases as deemed appropriate. The database will be valuable when conducting analyses, particularly those that involve the disaggregation of incidents by student characteristics such as race/ethnicity, gender, or disability. In addition, the recommendations in Safety in Numbers will also prove useful when responding to state and federal data collections. For more information about Safety in Numbers. visit the project website at http://nces.ed.gov/forum/crime.asp. Questions about the document or the Crime, Violence, and Discipline Task Force can be directed to Ghedam Bairu.

Excerpt from Safety in Numbers

Data need to be reviewed in context. Schools with high suspension rates could be those with high levels of disorder. High suspension rates could also represent a physical plant problem such as poorly designed buildings with narrow halls and stairwells conducive to pushing and shoving, which often leads to fighting. Significant over enrollment can have the same effect on student behavior. Schools that do not tolerate misbehavior can also have high suspension rates as they work to effectively manage student misbehavior, school disorder, and crime. It is important that administrators are attuned to contextual issues when making policy decisions. (source: Clay, D. (1996). School Safety and Discipline. Cleveland, OH: Cleveland State University)

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Planning School Facilities Maintenance

School facility maintenance is an integral, yet often overlooked, aspect of the delivery of educational services to students. When maintaining a school, we pay not only for bricks and mortar but also for student and staff well-being. Effective school maintenance protects capital investment, safeguards the health and safety of our children, and supports educational performance. After all, learning doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Students and staff interact more constructively in an environment that is orderly, clean, and safe. Poor air quality, for example, can negatively impact student alertness, and student and teacher attendance-which subsequently has a negative impact on student learning. On the other hand, classrooms that are well ventilated and suitably lit can actually facilitate instruction. Appropriate facilities maintenance extends the life span of older facilities and maximizes the useful life of newer facilities. Thus, a facilities maintenance plan contributes to both the instructional and financial well-being of an education organization and its community, and is a necessary component of sound overall organizational management.

To address this issue of growing national interest, the National Forum on Education Statistics and the Association of School Business Officials (ASBO®) International are collaborating to develop the Planning Guide for Maintaining School Facilities, a “best practice” handbook for effectively developing a school facilities maintenance plan. As the name implies, a “facilities maintenance plan” details an organization’s strategy for proactively maintaining its facilities. Thus, the handbook provides recommendations (and Web pointers) on both the process of developing, and the content that must be included in, an effective maintenance plan. This includes maintenance topics such as: Why Does Facilities Maintenance Matter; Planning for School Facilities Maintenance; Facilities Audits; Providing a Safe Environment for Learning; Maintaining School Facilities and Grounds; Effectively Managing Staff and Contractors; and Evaluating Facilities Maintenance Practices.

If your organization is already keeping its schools and grounds in good condition, great. But even so, spending a few hours reviewing these recommendations is probably a small investment in comparison to the amount of energy being focused on facilities maintenance efforts-especially if there’s a chance (and there is) that you might find something new and useful in this document. If, on the other hand, your organization doesn’t keep its schools and grounds as well as it might, then you will definitely want to read more from the Planning Guide for Maintaining School Facilities, coming in the spring of 2003.

Do you know everything you should about:

checkmark icon Asbestos checkmark icon Lead paint
checkmark icon Indoor air quality checkmark icon Pesticide use
checkmark icon PCBs checkmark icon CFCs and HCFCs
checkmark icon Radon checkmark icon Recycling
checkmark icon Solid waste disposal checkmark icon Underground storage tanks
checkmark icon Blood borne pathogens checkmark icon Right-to-Know
checkmark icon Hazardous/infectious waste checkmark icon Waste water treatment

For more information about the Planning Guide for Maintaining School Facilities, visit http://nces.ed.gov/forum/maintenance.asp. The document will be released in spring 2003 in both paper and electronic form. Questions about the School Facility Maintenance Planning Task Force can be directed to Ghedam Bairu.

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A Letter from the Association of School Business Officials (ASBO®) International

Dear Forum members:

I believe that the recent collaboration between the National Forum on Education Statistics and the Association of School Business Officials (ASBO®) International (http://www.asbointl.org/) has the makings of a win-win partnership.

We are now one year into the cooperative development of a Planning Guide for Maintaining School Facilities (see http://nces.ed.gov/forum/maintenance.asp). Writing effectively about such a far-reaching topic demands expertise in a wide range of areas, including maintenance and operations, school finance, human resources, data collection and use, and even instruction (which determines building use). As I have learned from many years as a school administrator, it is often difficult for a single organization to have all of the answers to such complex issues. This awareness brings with it the realization that cooperation between organizations is an effective way of solving shared problems and maximizing resources. ASBO recognizes this and, in fact, has made collaborating with national organizations like the Forum an objective of its strategic plan.

For those of you who may still be learning about our organization, ASBO was founded in 1910 and has grown into a professional association of more than 6,200 school business management professionals. Our mission is to provide programs and services that promote the effective use of educational resources and the highest standards of school business management. In order to accomplish this mission, ASBO has developed an extensive system for disseminating information to more than 15,000 school districts nationally. We would be pleased to use this network to promote relevant Forum materials to our members and their schools. In fact, ASBO was delighted to have featured four articles about Forum initiatives in the December 2001 issue of our national magazine, School Business Affairs.

With the increasing emphasis on educational accountability (both fiscal and instructional), I see many more opportunities for the Forum and ASBO to work together in the future. To this end, I invite the Forum to share information about its mission and resources at the 88th Annual ASBO(r) Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, on October 25-29, 2002 (visit http://www.asbointl.org/Exhibits/meetings.asp for more information). With the Forum’s expertise in education data collection and use, and ASBO’s commitment to promoting the highest standards for education management, I am certain that our organizations have a bright future working together to improve our education system. After all, data and decisionmaking are natural partners!

Clark Godshall

District Superintendent of Orleans-Niagara BOCES in Medina, New York and 2002 President of ASBO® International

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NCEF… Facilities Resources Just a Mouse Click Away

Did you know that there is a website that disseminates information about K-12 school planning, design, financing, construction, operations, and maintenance? Sure, you say, every vendor and equipment manufacturer in the world has developed such a site. But this site is a part of the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) and is supported by the U.S. Department of Education as a free public service. It is the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (NCEF), which can be found on the Web at http://www.edfacilities.org.

NCEF’s website includes reviews of and links to cutting-edge education facilities news; a calendar of conferences, workshops, and other facilities management-related events; a gallery of photos showing innovative building design and construction from real schools across the nation; categorized and abstracted resource lists with links to full length, online publications; and pointers to other organizations that provide online and offline resources about education facilities management. So whether you are in the mood to think about capital improvement programs, music suites, or school size and security, think about http://www.edfacilities.org, your link to the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities.

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The Forum in Action

In addition to school safety and facilities initiatives, the Forum continues to work on other issues that affect the education data community, including school finance and accounting systems, school technology data collections, and school website development guidance.

Education Finance: The Forum’s Education Finance Task Force has been advising NCES on a revision of the 1990 publication Financial Accounting for State and Local School Systems, which represents a national set of standards and guidance for school system accounting. The revision will be released in the fall of 2002. The purpose of the document is to improve the uniformity, comparability, and comprehensiveness of fiscal education data. The revised and restructured guidance defines account classifications that provide meaningful financial management information for its users, complies with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) established by the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB), operationalizes the most recent GASB position papers for accounting and reporting by governmental entities, and recognizes the changes that have taken place in school technology, safety, and security. The document also provides guidance on the uses of fiscal data, budgeting methods, account code structures, program cost accounting, student activity funds, and other emerging issues. In the near future, the task force will also develop a document to describe student and teacher related financial data elements. Finally, it will develop a “formulas and calculations” document to describe equity measures, cost adjustment calculations, student and teacher count measures, and revenue and expenditure calculations. These documents will be used by schools, school districts, and other education entities to clarify data definitions, as well as when considering decision and policy issues. For information about project progress, visit http://nces.ed.gov/forum/finance.asp.

Technology in Schools: Assessing the use of technology in our schools can be a difficult process. Few education agencies are likely able to generate accurate answers to questions such as: Have we reached our technology goals? What are our technology needs? Are we doing as well as others? Thus, the Forum’s Technology in Schools Task Force is developing a tool to improve the systematic assessment of computer-based technology used in schools. The document is designed to help decisionmakers and technology users prepare, collect, and assess information about the scope, pervasiveness, effectiveness, and efficiency of computer technology being used in their school systems. The principal purposes of the document include providing guidelines for gathering information on the presence and use of technology in schools, suggesting useful ways of analyzing the information collected, reducing data burden by eliminating redundancy in information collections, facilitating the maintenance of data on technology in schools, and increasing awareness of the breadth of issues related to technology in schools. Technology in Schools will be released in both paper and electronic form in January 2003. For information about project progress, visit http://nces.ed.gov/forum/technology.asp.

Internet Use: The Forum’s latest working group focuses its efforts on developing a guide to assist schools, local education agencies, and state education agencies in identifying essential policies, content issues, and best practices with respect to Internet usage in schools and school districts. The Web Development Working Group has created its development plan and currently anticipates that its tasks will be completed by July 2003.

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Winter Forum 2002

The National Forum on Education Statistics held its Winter 2002 meeting in conjunction with the 15th Annual MIS Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on March 11-13, 2002. This change in venue (from the normal Winter Meeting site in Washington, DC) allowed NCES to support Forum member attendance at both meetings. The early returns on this experiment were overwhelmingly positive. Forum members were able to enjoy a host of MIS sessions, including Web Systems for District Annual Fiscal Reporting, Working with Districts on Data, and Profiles of State Education Systems for Use with NAEP. The Forum then convened for a general session and standing committee meetings on the final day of the conference.

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Upcoming Events Contact
Summer Forum Meeting
* Washington, DC * July 22-24, 2002*
Ghedam Bairu
NCES Summer Data Conference
* Washington, DC * July 24-26, 2002*
Mary McCrory
NCES Fellows
* Washington, DC * November 4-8, 2002 *
Mary McCrory

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2001-2002 Forum Officers


Forum Chair: Lavan Dukes, Florida Department of Education
Vice Chair: Raymond Yeagley, Rochester Schools (NH)
Past Chair: Andy Rogers, Los Angeles Unified (CA)
NCES Staff: Ghedam Bairu
NESAC Chair: Bethann Canada, Virginia Department of Education
Vice Chair: Bill Smith, Sioux Falls School District (SD)
NCES Staff: Beth Young
PPI Chair: Ronald Danforth, New York State Education Dept.
Vice Chair: Nerissa Bretania-Shafer, Guam Dept. of Education
NCES Staff: Ghedam Bairu
TD&C Chair: Blair Loudat, North Clackamas School District (OR)
Vice Chair: Roger Young, Haverhill Public Schools (MA)
NCES Staff: Lee Hoffman

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Newsletter Information

The Forum Voice is released both as a paper document and an electronic publication that is available at http://nces.ed.gov/forum/voice.asp. To subscribe to the electronic version, visit the NCES News Flash. To subscribe to the paper document, contact Susan Rittenhouse at rittens@westat.com or (301) 294-2056.

To contact the Forum, browse: http://nces.ed.gov/forum, email: Ghedam Bairu, fax: (202) 502-7475, or write:

NCES-Forum
1990 K Street
NW, Room 9095
Washington, DC 20006-5651

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Links to Past Issues of the Forum Voice

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Publications of the National Forum on Education Statistics do not undergo the formal review required for products of the National Center for Education Statistics. The information and opinions published here are the product of the National Forum on Education Statistics and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the U.S. Department of Education or the National Center for Education Statistics.


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