Price tag for Ann Arbor public schools 'achievement gap' consultant: $441,130
AnnArbor.com reviewed invoices obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The documents showed the district has spent $441,130.06 on various services from Pacific Educational group since March 2005, the earliest documented purchases in the request.
The vast majority of charges are for consulting services and travel expenses for Glenn Singleton, chief executive officer of Pacific Educational Group, and various employees within his organization.
“In closing the achievement gap, that would be money well spent,” said Ann Arbor school board president Deb Mexicotte.
The Board of Education is scheduled to hold a work session on Wednesday to discuss the district's achievement gap, which has existed in the schools for decades despite many attempts to close it.
The work done with Pacific Educational Group is part of a decades-long attempt to close the achievement gap, the term commonly used to describe the difference between test scores, grades and overall school environment between white students and minority students.
For example, test scores show 71 percent of eighth-grade black students had proficient or advanced MEAP mathematics test scores in the 2009-10 school year, compared to 94 percent of white students. In 2005-06, 48 percent of eighth-grade black students were proficient or advanced in math, compared to 90 percent of white students.
According to AAPS documents, the Pacific Educational Group uses a number of strategies to work with school districts to close the achievement gap, including forming equity teams among administrators and in school buildings, having “courageous conversations about race,” including parent leaders to engage other parents, and conducting student focus groups to develop student leaders.
The earliest cost associated with Singleton and his firm is a one-day, in-service presentation in March 2005. The total cost of the presentation was $5,164.97, with $4,000 in charges for the presentation and the rest for travel expenses. Singleton works out of San Francisco and Pacific Educational Group has offices both there and in Minneapolis.
In July 2005, the district signed a 1-year contract to assist district administrators in developing an “equity framework,” which is when groups in the district look at race in various ways, and begin training administrators and building leaders to address the achievement gap. By the end of the first year, the district had spent more than $60,000 on Pacific Educational Group.
The district has since annually signed a 1-year agreement with Pacific Educational Group. In 2006-07, the district spent about $54,000, increasing to about $70,300 in 2007-08, about $93,300 in 2008-09, about $80,000 in 2009-10, and about $76,000 in 2010-11.
The highest single cost associated with Pacific Educational Group was a three-day trip Singleton made to the district in April 2010, which cost $16,870.32.
Singleton was traveling on Monday and could not be reached for comment.
It was unclear by the documents released by the district what assessment Pacific Educational Group has made of the district’s progress on closing the achievement gap. Singleton gave the district a harsh assessment at a meeting in April.
Trustee Christine Stead, a professional consultant, said Singleton and his consultants have done a nice job of raising awareness in the district regarding equity issues but she’s not entirely sure what impact they’ve made without data.
“They could do better providing good reports on progress they’ve made,” she said. “You should never have a board be completely surprised at your findings and should be able to demonstrate your findings in some way that’s measurable. We’re not getting that from them.”
Pacific Educational Group includes a number of seminars in its work with school districts to help "investigate the role that racism plays in institutionalized academic achievement disparities to eliminate the achievement gap," according to company materials. The consultants also hold workshops with school board members, district administrators and various equity teams to design and develop professional development opportunities for school employees.
While the relationship between trustees and the consultants may not have always been easy-going, Mexicotte said the suggestions and techniques brought forward by Pacific Educational Group have improved the district’s work on shrinking the gap.
Mexicotte said Pacific Educational Group is part of a long-term solution to the achievement gap and there’s not going to be a quick solution.
“There was going to be no quick fix. We’ve committed and recommitted to the work,” she said. “I’ve both been pleased with the changes we’ve seen in our student achievement data, as well as at times being challenged by how best to make our partnership work and work with the consultants.”
Stead said she’s hoping the district will soon take the lessons they’ve learned from Pacific Educational Group and incorporate them into the district’s culture.
“My hope is that we’re transitioning away from PEG and we can make that a part of our own work and our own culture,” she said, calling that the “ultimate mark of success.”