June 22, 1996 in City

School Report’s New Category: Weapons Count Momentum’s County Report Card Lists 132 Incidents

By The Spokesman-Review

The annual report card on Spokane County schools now includes the number of incidents involving guns, knives and other weapons.

That statistic - absent in the first five Excellence in Education Report Cards - has become another category used to evaluate how well area students are learning, the producers of the annual summary said Friday.

Those weapons incidents are one of 25 categories used in the annual summary prepared by Momentum, a pro-business group in the Spokane area.

Brian Talbott and Wanda Cowles, co-chairmen of the latest report card, said the county’s 12 school districts are generally doing a good job.

The report found 132 weapons incidents in county schools in the 1993-94 year - the first year the state required such statistics to be collected.

“We’re certainly not satisfied with 132 incidents,” said Talbott, superintendent of Educational School District 101.

“But that’s one incident for every 518 students,” Talbott said. The rest of the state that year registered nearly 3,000 such incidents - a ratio of one incident per every 280 students.

Other new categories on the list are school technology, bilingual instruction, alternative education and gifted education.

Momentum started the annual report as a way of giving districts, teachers and parents a way of finding common indicators and information to discuss education goals.

“Our purpose is not to draw conclusions,” said Cowles. She added that the annual report generates differing responses - with some parents picking categories they find important and starting discussions with their local school officials.

Momentum has copies of the 78-page report available at its office or through ESD 101.

Other categories already on the report card include volunteer involvement, enrollment statistics by grade and SAT scores among high school students.

This year’s summary also shows that the Mead and Spokane districts each added 21 staff members, including teachers, between 1992 and 1994.

It also shows that only eight of those 42 staff were minorities, and all eight were hired in the Spokane School District.

Talbott and Cowles acknowledged that roughly half the annual report’s numbers offer dated information.

As in the case of the weapons incidents, Momentum has to rely on reports released by the state. And those numbers often are released slowly. The ‘93-94 weapons report, for instance, arrived last January.

“It’s true that some of the data is not right up-to-date,” said Talbott. “But they provide information on trends occurring in the districts.”

Cowles and Talbott said the annual summary is used by the county’s districts to pinpoint areas of achievement or under-performance.

“We compare what the other districts are doing,” said Chuck Stocker, East Valley School District superintendent.

“If we find that we’re low in something, we use that to check out what is going on,” Stocker said.

The report is also sent as a recruiting tool to people considering moving to this area.

“We send out relevant pages of information they’re looking for. It’s a way of promoting ourselves,” Stocker said.

He added the report doesn’t provide totally solid indicators for how well schools do their job.

“But it’s a place to start.”

, DataTimes

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