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Another volley in the early release Wednesday debate



UPDATE: Point of clarification: The foundation asked for the analysis, but the actual data came from the Juvenile Assessment Center. Smith also would like to note that there are spikes in 2009/10 and 2010/11 - the years after the policy went into effect - when considered relative to other days of the week in the same years. 

"This difference in admission patterns would indicate either something likely happened to elevate Wed in the two most recent years or to depress Tuesdays and Thursdays," he wrote in an email. (The data I highlighted below is the Wednesday to Wednesday comparison, which shows an uptick in the number of admissions in 2009/10 and a decrease in 2010/11.)  

The Pinellas Education Foundation and the Pinellas County Council of PTAs upped the ante today in the debate about early release Wednesday, releasing the results of a "study" by an adjunct professor at the University of Tampa that shows a correlation between the policy and an increase in "juvenile crime and arrests" on that day of the week.

Mary Bartholf, president of the PTA, is quoted in the press release as saying, "When combining these statistics with the fact that parents have already voiced their opinions that Early Release Wednesday should be abolished, it is time for the school board and the teachers union to come up with a different plan."

But not so fast.

Grant Smith, the researcher who did the analysis, didn't come up with a study as part of his work at the University of Tampa. Smith, in his separate role as a research consultant, was given a raw data set - with very limited parameters - by the foundation earlier this month and asked to determine what, if anything, could be concluded. (Smith wasn't paid for this work. He did it for free.) 

What Smith comes up with is a "statistical anomaly" showing an increase, on average, of more admissions to the Juvenile Assessment Center on Wednesdays over a two-year period after early release Wednesday started. But there's only a spike in the first year after the policy started; the next year, the number of admissions goes back down. 

Averaging the two years is "allowable but problematic," he says.

Smith also emphasizes that his analysis is extremely limited - and mostly indicates the need for greater research.

"Let me be really clear about this - and I hesitate to call it research - this is a long way from heart surgery. There are a lot of potential explanatory variables and there's a lot of overlap," he said. "The best use for this data is for greater research."

Here's why, he says.

The data set included the number of juveniles admitted to the assessment center over a four-year period during three shifts, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., 4 p.m. to midnight and 12 a.m. to 8 a.m. The data doesn't include what times the crimes were committed, when a juvenile was admitted to the center or whether the kid in question was even a public school student.

There's also an overlap issue - if early release Wednesday is contributing to a spike in juvenile crime and arrests, it would be helpful to know the specific hours in which students are out of school early versus when crimes were committed. But he wasn't given that data. Instead, he received overall numbers for the entire shifts. And the 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift covers basically the entire school day.

What he finds is that the 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift is the busiest - which is true of all days - and that there's a jump in the number of admissions during that shift on Wednesday in the first year of the policy in 2009/10.

Here are the numbers for the 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift for the two years before and after the policy:  

2007/08: 554 admissions

2008/09: 498 

2009/10: 577

2010/11: 500

What is interesting, too, is that Wednesday becomes the most popular day for admissions after introduction of the policy, not before. That could be caused by a number of variables, but indicates that "something weird" is going on that day, he said.

"What it says to me from a policy analysis perspective is there's enough evidence here to merit a deeper dive," he said.  

This is only the latest shot in the recent back-and-forth about early release Wednesday. Some board members objected in July to the wording of a survey done by the foundation and PTA, saying it was misleading. (See that story here.) There was an email exchange. Then the foundation and PTA released the results of that survey, showing that most parents still object to early release Wednesday. (See that story here.)

And now this analysis. What do you think? Do these results merit a closer look, as suggested by the researcher, or are they conclusive enough to suggest ending the policy?

Here's the press release from the foundation:


Study Shows Correlation Between Early Release on Wednesdays

And Juvenile Crime and Arrests

LARGO, Fla. – A recent study conducted by a University of Tampa adjunct professor, Grant Smith, Ph.D., shows that since Early Release Wednesday was implemented, there has been a significant increase in juvenile arrests during the 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift on Wednesday during the school year.

The study looked at Wednesdays during the school year for a four year period starting with 2007-2008. Early release Wednesday was implemented during the 2009-2010 school year.

Key Findings of the report include:

·         The average number of annual admissions to the Juvenile Assessment Center declined in the two years following implementation of the Early Release policy.

·         Although the average annual admissions declined, the proportion of admissions on Wednesdays increased.

·         Following implementation of the Policy, Wednesdays became the leading day in terms of the number of admissions.

·         Following policy implementation the 12am-8am and 4pm-12am shifts declined in total admissions on Wednesdays.

·         Considering admissions declined during the other two shifts, it is the growth of Wednesday admissions during the 8am – 4pm shift that has pushed Wednesday to the top spot.

“The good news is that generally admissions to the Juvenile Assessment Center have declined.  Unfortunately admissions on Wednesdays during the 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. shift have grown significantly,” Smith said in his report.

Pinellas County Public Defender Bob Dillinger voiced his concern. “I’ve never been comfortable with the concept of Early Release Wednesday because the more unsupervised time any child has, the greater the chance he or she will get into trouble.”

The report shows the spike in arrests come during the 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift on Wednesdays: “In the years following implementation of the policy, Wednesday has become the busiest day of the week for admissions.  This change in the status of Wednesday comes about despite decreased admissions during the 12 a.m. – 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. – 12 a.m. shifts and is a direct result of growth in admissions during the 8 a.m -4 p.m. shift.”

 According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, juvenile violence peaks in the afterschool hours on school days and in the evenings on non-school days.

 President of the Pinellas County Council of Parent Teacher Associations Mary Bartholf stated, “When combining these statistics with the fact that parents have already voiced their opinions that Early Release Wednesday should be abolished, it is time for the school board and teacher’s union to come up with a different plan.”  

Early release Wednesday was implemented in order to give teachers more planning time.

 Parents for Pinellas Students (P4PS) chair and Pinellas Education Foundation board member Bob McIntyre stated, “Teachers do need planning time, and they need to be appropriately compensated. Pinellas County Schools has a $1.2 billion budget. The district needs to place a higher priority on teacher compensation rather than trying to appease teachers with a band-aid that has no long-term benefit to them and that is detrimental to students and their parents.”


See Smith's analysis attached below. 



[Last modified: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 6:33pm]


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