This is a follow-up to the last blog post re: “seats available” at Level 1 & Level 2 CPS schools**…

I’ve received some questions re: the “extra ancillary rooms” column of that spreadsheet. So let me shed some light on that. I still have not received any information on CPS about that, but I think I’ve figured out what is going on in most cases.

Those extra ancillary rooms are related more to the decision by the District to use “rounding” in favor of the school’s ancillary room count when the calculation of a school’s total homerooms vs. total classrooms ends up with a fraction instead of as a whole number.

For example:

Haugan Elementary School has a total of 56 Classrooms per CPS.

To calculate the Total Number of Homerooms, CPS uses 56 classrooms * .769

This gives Haugan 43.064 homerooms. But you can’t use .064 of a room as a homeroom, so CPS rounds this number to a whole number, 43 Total Homerooms.

This gives Haugan 13 Ancillary Rooms to use for other purposes, such as Special Ed, Art, Music, Tech, Science Labs, etc. Therefore, 23% of Haugan’s Total Classrooms can be used as Ancillary Rooms.

When you use this with all elementary schools and always round down to the nearest whole number, some schools will benefit by having a Total Number of Rooms that allows them to be closer to .99 instead of .01.

For example:

Frazier Prospective has a total of 13 Classrooms per CPS.

To calculate the Total Number of Homerooms, CPS uses 13 classrooms * .769

This gives Frazier 9.997 homerooms. Pretty close to 10 homerooms, however, CPS will round down to the nearest whole number, and Frazier will be given 9 homerooms and 4 ancillary classrooms.

Therefore, Frazier has 31% of their Total Classrooms to use as Ancillary Rooms.

My spreadsheet was formatted to round to two decimal places and Excel automatically rounds down for .001-.004 and up for .005-.009. That wasn’t aligned with (what I’m guessing from the data) is CPS’ decisions regarding the rounding of numbers for this formula. Overall, I’m very much in favor of CPS rounding down in this instance.

I can’t tell you why Boone Elementary is given more ancillary rooms than accounted for in the rounding to a whole number. There could be a few plausible explanations, so I’ll let CPS explain it.

Why does it matter?

On the one hand, I don’t have a problem with CPS rounding their numbers in favor of schools having more flexibility with their space to meet the needs created by diverse programming.

On the other hand, using a formula that doesn’t account for real program use and actual room audits creates the perception of inequity, and the possibility of real inequity, when it comes to space utilization especially since CPS has such extreme diversity in the sizes and accommodations of its various school facilities. The formula also doesn’t account for the often changing number of per grade classrooms that some Neighborhood Schools face (having an increase in kindergarteners one year so that the school has to create 3 kindergarten classrooms instead of last year’s 2 rooms, for example) because they have a different enrollment system than do Charters, Magnet Schools, and Selective Enrollment Schools and cannot easily predict their enrollment or mobility throughout the year.

But more about that in my next post.

In short, don’t read too much into the “extra ancillary rooms” column in the previous blog post. That is fodder for dialogue, not a diagnosis.

My main point in releasing that list was to highlight that there are many schools that have been keeping their utilization under 100%, sometimes FAR under 100%, even though they have waitlists for enrollment.

And I’m not pointing this out because I think the enrollment in these schools should be increased to 100%. I’m pointing this out because these schools are ALLOWED to make a choice about enrollment and set up controls for space utilization that many other schools cannot use.

Other schools have been affected by school closings for using the same controls to keep their enrollment down (Courtenay used waitlists to keep their utilization at 85%, Disney Magnet is at 84% utilization, but only Courtenay is being affected by the School Actions and is being relocated/consolidated) or for having similar enrollment numbers but different standardized test scores (Alcott and Owens Elementary have the same utilization score of 68%, only Owens is affected by the School Actions and is being closed.)

Until CPS can create decision-making formulas that better reflect the actual (and often diverse) scenarios that individual schools face, both real inequities and perceptions of inequity will remain. And these real or perceived inequities will undermine parent engagement and trust in the District, which is the opposite of the stated goals of Central Office.

Perhaps CPS believes that this blunt utilization formula is defensible because it is “consistent”. But a consistent formula only works when organizations on which it is applied are themselves consistent. Which is not the case for individual schools in CPS.

It would be akin to saying that we are giving the same dose of Tylenol for all “humans”…no matter if they are an infant, toddler, 12 year old, grown man, or pregnant woman. This type of consistency could be disastrous.


**Levels taken from CPS School Year 2011-2012.

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