Gilbert Public Schools: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics*

Gilbert Public Schools held a work study session so a hired demographer could come explain to the board exactly what we believe he had been paid to say: “Give a junior high school to Gilbert Classical Academy, because…” He got stuck on the “because” part of that sentence, apparently because what he had been paid to say didn’t match the data he presented. Meet Rick Brammer, co-founder of Applied Economics, who was paid $15,000.00 by GPS for a demographic report in April 2015. We don’t know why or how much he was paid to do the same report again in 2016, but it’s not difficult to figure out what he was paid to say.

Watch as Governing Board member Daryl Colvin calls out GPS student losses for what they are, a self-fulfilling prophesy. That’s exactly what has been happening in GPS with the nasty attitude from the top toward Gilbert Junior High School. Starve the school for resources, scare families away by trying to close the school and then try it again a few years later. Keep Gilbert Junior High School employees on pins and needles awaiting their fate: will they have a job at all if Superintendent Christina Kishimoto succeeds in closing the school this time? Rick Brammer, the demographer dude, was rendered speechless by the level-headed common sense of Daryl Colvin’s remarks:

GPS lost 900 students this year, but GPS does not know why. Superintendent Christina Kishimoto and her gang of over-paid chief officers pulling down six-figure paychecks don’t really want to know why GPS lost 900 students last year. Their hair is on fire to reform the district, so who cares about students? They must believe “If we build it, they will come.” Gilbert locals know better than that, but Christina Kishimoto and her band of carpetbaggers and scalawags don’t know about the failure of Gilbert’s Big League Dreams adventure. Of course, Big League Dreams also is losing money at a fast clip in Redding, California. Sorry, we wandered away from the point, which is that Gilbert Public Schools is losing money, too, but the administration is clueless. Maybe they figure the public will approve another tax override and bond, since the present situation is being managed so well. <snark>

With absolutely no data, because there isn’t any data about why students leave GPS, Rick Brammer blamed the loss of 900 GPS students on charter schools. Brilliant, dude! That must have been part of what he was paid to say this time. It’s been well known for a long, long time that GPS doesn’t do anything like exit surveys–well, genuine exit surveys–to determine why parents take their children out of GPS schools. Or why parents don’t enroll their children in GPS schools to begin with. Nope, GPS just says, “Charters” like it’s a dirty word and that’s the end of it.

Basically, Rick Brammer says in a couple of different ways, there’s no rhyme or reason for why GPS loses students. He gets all wonky about trend capture versus stable capture before he gets to what he was told to say, “Current and future enrollment by school shows trends that may require modification of attendance areas as the school-age population continues to shift eastward.” The slides show a mixed bag of data:

** Since 2009/10 enrollment has declined by about 2,700 students (1.2% annually), with a loss of about 900 students this year alone.
** Out of District enrollment declined by 708 students (5,357 to 4,649), while the loss from within the District was somewhat less than projected.
** Greatest external losses from the Higley and Queen Creek areas.
** No clear pattern to gains and losses in the western part of the District.
** Addition of nearly 10,000 households over the next 10 years.

Don’t take Westie’s word for it, watch for yourself:

Hey, Rick Brammer and Applied Economics: we’d be a lot more impressed with your work if you hadn’t neglected to change the metadata of your Powerpoint presentation from the “Balsz School District” title. Also, we noticed you covered up the area on the map of the construction going on within the Mesquite-Gilbert Junior High School boundaries. See slide #12 of the new demographic study. Cheap trick, huh? Then there’s the fact that you covered up the most important data of the entire presentation, the projections of school age population and enrollment. See slide #14 of the new demographic study.  Then your Powerpoint slide show didn’t function correctly … those projections just stayed hidden during your presentation, didn’t they? Sheeesh. And you’re supposed to be data nerds … we figure you probably kept the data hidden because it didn’t say what you had been paid to say. Bazinga!

Hey, board members who are going to vote on closing a neighborhood junior high school and give the campus to Gilbert Classical Academy: the numbers you have been given suck, but it’s worse that you don’t know why those numbers suck. For one thing, losses on the east side of the district were most likely influenced by the new schools opening in the area, not all of which were charter schools. You know, there are other school districts like Higley, Queen Creek and Chandler. Yes, Chandler School District goes way east to Sossaman Road, with shiny new schools on the east side. All of those areas are growing. But GPS is dwindling. BTW,  we noticed the presentation did NOT use the 100 day Average Daily Membership … you know, the numbers that would show just how many students GPS actually lost between semesters this year. Nope, Rick Brammer and Applied Economics used the 40 day ADM and we’re *sure* there was a statistically valid reason. <more snark>

What GPS doesn’t want to accept is that those other school districts are enticing a lot of GPS students, just as the many nearby charter schools are doing, and it’s not just on the east side of the district. Nope, the western area that was covered up on Slide #12 has some serious construction happening now, and more coming in the near future. Chandler School District knows it, and has been sending around some seriously attractive marketing communications to those residents. And gee, for an area GPS derides as *declining,* Legacy Traditional School sees a bright future there. This time, the charter school is going for the whole enchilada, K-12. And GPS sits holding its    (fill in the blank, more than one word if you want)   .

Some direct quotes from Rick Brammer, the high-paid demographic consultant from Applied Economics…

“I’ve seen districts try to do the same thing [as Legacy charters] and it HASN’T helped…”

“There’s no ‘always works’ kind of thing that I’m aware of.”

“I think it’s very interesting that some do, and some don’t [succeed]”.

“But you have to try.” However, he further stated that it’s hit or miss, and even schools with high satisfaction ratings will lose to charters.

The best example of “pocketed success” he gave was the Kyrene Spanish immersion school where 2/3 of the students were from out-of-district. It also happens to be located 2 miles from the town of Guadalupe.  But at least they knew their market and played to it. GPS is just grasping at straws, and doesn’t have a plan that would lead to success. GPS admins and board members have been too busy being hyper-focused on one single issue for the last almost six years: Gilbert Classical Academy. GPS is pushing students and families out of the district. On purpose.

If the GPS Governing Board votes to close a neighborhood junior high school, it won’t be based on data. It will be based on what Christina Kishimoto wants, so she can burnish her national reputation. Somehow, we don’t think Christina Kishimoto will have a new school named after her, like Chandler Superintendent Camille Casteel has.

*Big Fat Asterisk:
No, we did not make this up: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Sign the petition: No School Should Close – Keep Gilbert Jr High School and Mesquite Jr High School Open


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