The Case for Analyzing Your District’s Staffing Levels
Regular performance reviews are an important part of any successful school district’s best practices. Many variables impact performance, and the most successful districts are those that can identify performance gaps early to identify adjustments to most effectively close the identified gaps. A “gap” is a difference between your district’s actual performance and the performance goal — or it may be a gap between your district’s performance and the performance of peer districts. (Often these gaps will exist simultaneously). Among the variables that your school district can adjust to directly impact results are your staffing levels at key positions.
Two common gaps that should prompt a district to review and analyze their staffing levels are:
- Student Performance Gaps
- Financial Performance Gaps
Let’s look at some of the ways your district can use existing data to analyze staffing levels to address each scenario.
Analyzing Staffing Relative to a Student Performance Gap
A performance gap can exist relative to the district’s goals, its peers, or both. In this scenario, districts should use the existing data available either sourced directly from the state or through an analytic software — such as Frontline’s Comparative Analytics solution — to answer the following questions:
- How are my staffing levels trending at key positions?
- How are high-achieving peer districts staffing key positions?
- Are staff deployed to each attendance center to achieve the best results?
Fluctuations in enrollment can drive staffing level changes and potentially impact the level of service and support your district can provide to its students. To incorporate this variable, analyze staffing levels using the ratio metric “Student to Staff FTE” — or the total enrollment divided by the total FTE for one or more specific positions. The Staffing Ratio analytic in Comparative Analytics can produce district and attendance center trends as well as peer comparisons for this ratio.
The peer set you use is very important in determining your “high-achieving” peers. Identify districts with a similar student population and demographics (focusing on demographics known to be more correlated to performance) and districts with similar financial resources at their disposal. Once you have your “Like” peers, compare recent student performance metrics and look for districts that are regularly outperforming the group.
Now you can ask: “How are my high-achieving peers staffing key positions relative to my staffing levels?” Review the staffing ratio comparisons and trends to decide if your staffing levels may be driving some of the performance gap. For districts with multiple attendance centers, that additional performance and ratio analysis should be done at the school level for additional insights.
Analyzing Staffing Relative to a Financial Performance Gap
The second scenario that should prompt a staffing level review is when operational spending is materially over or under the district’s budgeted amount. With personnel expenses often exceeding 80% of a school district’s operating budget, staffing levels should be one of the first areas a district reviews if expenses are coming in noticeably different than expected.
Under-spending may find its source in a lack of hiring and/or an increase in vacancies. Use internal data to review historical position vacancies and detailed staff experience levels to ensure you’re projecting turnover accurately.
Overspending relative to budget may mean an increase in staffing levels, less vacancies, and/or higher than expected salaries. The Compensation Calculator, available in Frontline’s Financial Planning Analytics, can help your district create scenarios for future budget amounts related to compensation.
Metrics that should be considered include Actual and Budgeted Expenditures, Actual and Budgeted Expenditures per Student, Actual to Budget Variance, Actual and Budgeted FTE counts, and Salary data for relative Degrees and Experience Levels.
Comparative Analytics offers several analytic templates that can help answer questions such as:
- What has the historical Actual to Budget variance been for Salary and Benefit spending?
- How is my Salary and Benefit expense (actual and per student) trending?
- How does my Salary and Benefit expense compare to peers?
- How competitive are my salaries in key positions?
Beyond the numbers, any proposed changes to staff should include important considerations including the impact on the organization’s culture and individual staff relationships. Weigh any perceived negative impact to individuals and/or your culture against what the data suggests. Including the analytical approaches defined above alongside an understanding of your current culture will drive the insight critical to understanding what actions your district can take to address performance gaps and the impact changes to staffing might have.