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Scrutinizing our schools: A focus on Durham Public Schools

Editor’s note: The following is a six-part series on the Durham Public Schools that originally appeared at the Bull City Rising Blog. The articles are reprinted here with authors’ permission.

Are our schools performing as well as we can expect? Are we getting a reasonable level of assurance that DPS is spending money in ways that improve learning outcomes? Even given the number of students in charter schools and the high poverty rate of the district, how well does DPS do in comparison with districts that are relatively like it in size?

Durham supports its schools richly; we deserve a rich scholastic environment for our community’s children. We’re not there, and we need to be. This series is about asking how we can help our schools get there:

Scrutinizing our schools: A focus on Durham Public Schools’ performance, spending

We start with a review of how DPS stacks up against other districts using imperfect, but interesting, standardized test results:

Scrutinizing our schools: DPS student achievement lags most NC districts

Then, we look at how DPS’ financial resources stack up against other North Carolina districts in general, and against three similarly-sized districts in particular — Cabarrus, Gaston and Johnston:

Next, we dive deeper into a comparative analysis of where DPS does (and doesn’t) spend money on a per-pupil basis — a story that includes the impact of charters, but needs to go well beyond it:

Scrutinizing our schools: Little of DPS’ surplus spending goes to regular classrooms — so where is it spent?

Then, we look more closely at how and where DPS assigns teachers, and at disparities in areas like principals/assistant principals and teachers:

Scrutinizing our schools: How does DPS allocate classroom and school resources?

Finally, we wrap up the series with some closing thoughts:

Scrutinizing our schools: Parting thoughts on why this matters, and an opportunity for optimism?

Kevin Davis

Kevin Davis is the editor of Bull City Rising, a blog that covers news, politics, and culture in Durham, North Carolina.

Alex Modestou

Alex Modestou has been working in Durham Public Schools for the better part of the past ten years, first as an America Counts tutor, later as a classroom teacher, and now as a high school athletics coach. He holds a bachelors degree in mathematics and a masters degree in teaching from Duke University.