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Friendly Dept of Education staffer helps me analyze class size

Last week I grumbled about a problem that was, at worst, a deliberate obfuscation and, at best, an annoying characteristic of Department of Education spreadsheets. The spreadsheets in question were supposed to convey two facts about every school in the city: 1) how much money the school had received from the state’s $150 million class-size reduction pot and 2) how much the school had actually reduced class sizes.

That would have been useful information, given that class sizes in the city got bigger, on average, despite the infusion. There was just one gigantic problem: I could not, for the life of me, extract the data from the spreadsheets — and even the press officer on the case, Will Havemann, couldn’t help me.

Today, I am delighted to report that the Department of Education has solved this problem for me, in the form of Tania Shinkawa, a staffer at the Office of Portfolio Development who manages class size reporting. Shinkawa just spent more than an hour with me, patiently re-jiggering the spreadsheets from this year and last year into a form that is much more understandable and analyze-able.

In the long term, this means please hold me accountable for drawing out some interesting facts about where the money went. In the short term, yay for transparency — and thank you, Tania!

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