Does Weighted-Student Funding Imply Autonomy? Sorta.

March 15, 2018

I tried to make a point today at an AEFP panel on weighted-student funding that came out all wrong.

We were discussing the differences between school-based autonomy and fiscal equity via WSF. Too often, it was being argued, these two concepts come together. This serves to hold back on achieving equity (potentially) if districts are unwilling/ready to provide greater school-based autonomy (or don’t believe in that model for better resource decision-making).

It’s a good point, especially because autonomy is already largely limited in traditional public school districts due to broader policy decisions around union contracts, state labor law, and restricted fund sources. Regardless of financial allocation model, collectively these restrictions lead to little discretion over how resources are used in schools.

The point I mangled was this: while school-based autonomy is not a necessary feature of WSF, I do think that WSF only has benefits over other allocation models when there is increased discretionary control over resources.

Fiscal equity can be achieved nearly as well with a weighted-staffing model as with weighted-student funding. The WSF translation of resources into dollars associated with students comes with an implicit declaration that various forms of education resources can be used as substitutes. Translating all resources to dollars assumes that quality/quantity trade offs can be made to find more efficient and effective solutions. This includes substituting between personnel and non-personnel resources. Otherwise, what’s the point of translating resources into a common unit (dollars)? If there is no quality/quantity trade off within and across resource classes, then more prescriptive pathways to fiscal equity can be just as effective as WSF. So why bother with the more sweeping policy change to WSF versus producing better staffing models?

What it comes down to it, not tackling teacher compensation methods, teacher assignment, barriers to strategic sourcing of goods and services, etc severely limits the advantages of WSF over other allocation methods.

So yes, WSF doesn’t imply school-based autonomy. But I do believe WSF implies greater autonomy over resource decisions by someone in school or district administration.

How I start my work in R

February 25, 2018
Ideation At the start of every project, there’s a blinking cursor. Actually, that’s almost never true for me. If I start staring at a blinking cursor, I’m almost guaranteed to keep looking at a blinking cursor, often for hours. The real work almost always starts weeks or months before I actually type anything. I think it’s easy for folks for whom their ultimate product is a bunch of code or an analysis report to undervalue that our work is creative.
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Stack of Glue

January 25, 2018
I have some text, but I want the content of that text to be dynamic based on data. This is a case for string interpolation. Lots of languages have the ability to write something like pet = "dog" puts "This is my {#pet}" pet = "dog" print(f"This is my {pet}") There have been ways to do this in R, but I’ve mostly hated them until glue came along. Using glue in R should look really familiar now:
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Naming Manual Colors with ggplot2

January 03, 2018
I have been using ggplot2 for 7 years I think. In all that time, I’ve been frustrated that I can never figure out what order to put my color values in for scale_*_manual. Not only is the order mapping seemingly random to me, I know that sometimes if I change something about how I’m treating the data, the order switches up. Countless hours could have been saved if I knew that this one, in hindsight, obvious thing was possible.
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This Year in My R Code

December 31, 2017
Looking back on 2017, there were three major trends in my R code: the end of S4, directly writing to SQL database, and purrr everywhere. The End of S4 The first package I ever wrote extensively used S4 classes. I wanted to have the security of things like setValidity. I liked the idea of calling new as it felt more like class systems I was familiar with from that one semester of Java in college.
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R, Docker, Circle, and Environments

July 21, 2017
My latest project at work involves (surprise!) an R package that interacts with a database. For the most part, that’s nothing new for me. Almost all the work I’ve done in R in the last 7 years has interacted with databases in some way. What was new for this project is that the database would not be remote, but instead would be running alongside my code in a linked Docker container.
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