Shining a Light on Manipulated and Inaccurate Data

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Members of our Five to Thrive community have spent a great deal of time pouring over many of the statistics presented by the BCSD Board of Education and outside consultants. What they’ve found is shocking. 

Data errors. Manipulated visuals. Misleading assumptions.

Is this an attempt to craft a narrative in favor of closing a school? Or irresponsible use of tax payer dollars on outside consultants who fail to deliver on their mandate?

Dig deeper and you too will find the following:

Inaccurate Data on BCSD Live Births

On Page 12 of Dr. Seversky’s Demographic Study, he has Live Births for 2017 listed as 266. He then uses that to suggest a 15.6% decrease from 2012. However, NYS DOH Vital Statistics, Table 54, has 300 Live Births for 2017 in BCSD. That means a decrease of only 4.8% from 2012, not 15.6%. That’s a substantial error, especially considering this is used as an indicator of future enrollment.

Dr. Seversky also used the wrong BCSD Live Birth numbers for 2015 and 2016. He uses 316 and 259 creating what appears to be a drastic drop in Live Births (57), instead of the real numbers 312 and 303 (a difference of only 9).

While the BCSD Live Birth trend was declining earlier this decade, in actuality it has remained relatively flat over the last 7 years of available data.

This should correlate to relatively flat projected enrollment numbers five years later, not a continued decline. 

Using incorrect data, means Dr. Seversky’s ratios and forecasts that follow are also flawed.

False Statements on Declining Enrollment

Despite what Dr. Seversky and the Board members are saying, we don’t have an enrollment problem. Current enrollment levels are above those when BVES reopened in 1992. Enrollment is average and quite possibly at the upward turning point in the cyclical trend. Kindergarten enrollment increased at 4 out of 5 schools for this school year, with a net gain of 38 overall. That means we are only 1 child under the 44-year average.

Deceptive Data Visualizations

Charts within the demographic study show a dramatic decline in Westchester Live Births from 2002 to 2016. However, the Y-axis starts at 10,000, which is not a data visualization best practice. When you plot the columns all the way to zero, you find an extremely gradual decline.

Several charts within the report lacked a zero baseline and therefore would likely lead to inaccurate conclusions.

Positive trends are portrayed as negative. Migration to and out of BCSD may have been net negative in 4 out of 5 years, but the trend was positive with the most recent year a positive net gain in transfers.

Basic Math Errors

Careless or intentionally deceptive? Dr. Seversky made basic math errors in his report.

We Demand Action

The Board and Interactive, Inc. owe the community new, accurate and unaltered data that paints the true picture of birth rates, enrollment AND the real cost savings (if any).  The discussion must include the problem(s) we are trying to solve with this process as well as alternatives outside of closing a school. And perhaps Dr. Seversky owes the district a refund.

Note: This article has been updated to reflect the accurate current Kindergarten enrollment number. It was previously incorrectly stated as 265, instead of 275.

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