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Park City School Board Skews the Numbers to Support Their Position

Quick quiz. How much bigger is 2% than 1.1%? It’s 81% bigger (thank you HP 12C calculator).

Why does 81% matter? Potentially it’s confirmation bias and reflects skewing of numbers by the Park City School Board to support their position.

I was reviewing slides from last night’s Park City School District Board meeting related to capital needs and the school board’s bond offering. Last night’s meeting was the first public hearing where the school district was officially explaining their arguments for why we needed to expand our schools. During the meeting slides were to be presented that justified the district’s decision to rebuild the Kearns Campus and put a bond offering on this November’s ballot.

The school district has stated that they need to have all day Kindergarten to improve the performance of Hispanic students (only 9% of 11th graders were proficient in english Studies in 2014). In order to have all day kindergarten, there needs to be enough space in our elementary schools to support the addition of all day kindergarteners. The school district has argued there isn’t space given the growth that is coming to our schools. In the slide below, they state that the student population is growing at about 2% per year.



What I have issue with is that the forecasted growth says “approximately 2% annually.” Yet, in a July 21, 2015 meeting school Business Administrator Todd Hauber stated that they had hired a demographer to look at enrollment growth at Park City Schools. They came in with 3 estimates. At the low end, students would decrease by 0.3%. The mid-line estimate was 1.1% growth. The high end was 2.3%.

In an unbiased world, the slide from the school board (presented above) would state that growth is expected to be 1.1% or if you were approximating you may just say 1%… but that doesn’t sound as good as the 2% presented above.

You may say, “what’s a measly 0.9% over the estimate. Parkrag, you are just being anti schools!” Yet, what if the Park Record reported that annual student growth was that same 0.9% difference, but this time less than the annual average (instead of over the annual average like the school board presented). Perhaps they had a bias against the bond initiative. They would report that Park City Schools are spending $66 million to prepare for 0.2% growth each year. Or to put it another way, we are spending $66 million to prepare for 8 new students each year.

In my opinion, the details matter. The school district paid for a growth study and received three numbers on student growth: -.3%, +1.1%, and +2.3%. It appears they chose to present information using the very top end of the range to influence voters.

I don’t have a problem with having an opinion (god knows I have more than a few) but please, as an official school body, don’t dramatically skew the numbers to support your position. It just calls into question all the other decisions that have been made.



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