Why do I keep hearing about the DESE Comprehensive District Review? How does that inform the budget process?
  • APS recently received a Comprehensive District Review from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). The review was conducted under Massachusetts General Law, chapter 15, section 55A.
  • The district review is designed to examine the systems, policies, and practices that drive the day-to-day work of the district. Analysis of the district’s systems, policies, and practices includes a focus on the ways in which the district works to improve and promote equity for all students.
  • During the comprehensive review, DESE interviewed key partners in the district including, district and school leaders, instructional staff, the school committee, parent advisory councils, family members and students from grade 6-12. 
  • Results of this report guide the district to review resource allocation and practices to ensure the district continues to make decisions that impact programs and services for our students. 

Some of the findings and recommendations in this review include:

“Between 2016 and 2021, overall student enrollment decreased by 10 percent (from 6,075 to 5,456)...teacher retention has been similar to the state rate (91.8 percent in 2021, which is greater than the state rate of 88.4 percent). The number of instructional staff has increased in the past five years (from 470 total teachers in 2017-2018 to 484 teachers in 2020-2021), even though student enrollment has decreased.” 1

“Interviewees said that coherence and consistency in taught curricula were a challenge. Specifically, the absence of documented curricula and staff to fill vacant curriculum director roles at the district level are hindering the district’s ability to improve. For example, one teacher stated, “No one is driving the curriculum” and “I feel there is no unity” in subject area teaching across the district.” 2

“One area that was clearly identified for improvement was the use of data to drive decisions about the budget. Resource allocation is an area of growth for the district because of limited evidence—based on a review of documents, interviews, and focus groups—that the district’s approach to resource allocation purposefully addresses equity or effectiveness in closing achievement, access, and opportunity gaps among student groups.” 3

“ The district plans to review some key components of the curriculum to address a need cited by school and district staff: ensuring that a standards- aligned, grade-level curriculum and instruction are consistently available districtwide.” 4


Footnotes


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1. What is the overall process for the school district’s operating budget?
2. What is the School Committee policy that guides the budget process?
3. What is State Aid to the Budget?
4. How much is the FY25 budget for APS?
5. What is the timeline for the FY25 operating budget process?
6. Why is there a deficit in the FY25 operating budget?
7. What can be done to alleviate the deficit?
8. How much of the annual operating budget is allocated to salaries and compensation?
9. How many positions will be eliminated? If there are positions eliminated or cut, will they all be teachers and instructional assistants?
10. How else will you try to balance the budget?
11. The district recently saw a decrease or elimination in some fees, will these fees increase again?
12. How does the budget relate to enrollment numbers at APS?
13. Over the next ten years is there a model for enrollment rate of students at APS?
14. How is the budget aligned to the class sizes at APS? Will our classes be overcrowded as a result of the budget deficit?
15. Doesn’t the town have enough money to cover the deficit? Why doesn’t the School Committee ask for more money from the town?
16. What is the town and district’s long-range financial planning model?
17. Why can’t we use the town’s 'Free Cash'?
18. Why can’t Excess Levy Capacity be used?
19. Were the Andover Education Association’s negotiating teams aware that the November 2023 Collective Bargaining Agreements might impact staffing levels at APS?
20. Has the district added additional administrative or non-student facing staff in recent years? Don’t these salaries make up a large portion of the operating budget?
21. I keep hearing about coaches for educators and executive directors for instruction at the elementary and secondary levels. What role do they play?
22. Why do I keep hearing about the DESE Comprehensive District Review? How does that inform the budget process?