Trying to find out if one school district has more teachers or fewer in the past six years may seem simple. But it can be complicated with data allegedly from the same source painting two completely different pictures.

A good example is the Rockford Public School District. The state of Michigan says that Rockford has added teachers over the past six years. But Rockford Superintendent Mike Shibler says he has had a big reduction in the number of teachers. And both sides are saying the conflicting information is coming from the school district.

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Part of the issue is how the state and the district determine “Just what is a teacher?”

The state says that each district submits information to the Registry of Educational Personnel, which is part of the Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI).

The state takes its school data from CEPI.

According to CEPI, Rockford had 332.21 full-time teachers in 2003-04 and 389.67 teachers in 2009-10, the most recent year data is available.

Michael Van Beek, education policy director for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said CEPI doesn’t appear to make distinctions between grade levels, so data might include adult education and pre-K teachers. Van Beek said CEPI does separate out special education and tech teachers.

However, Shibler said the state numbers are “inaccurate,” at least when he talks about the number of “teachers in the classroom.”

Shibler said his district had 470 teachers “in the classroom” in 2003-04 and in 2009-10 the school had 428 teachers, according to the district’s audit.