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ERIC Number: ED544389
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Apr
Pages: 26
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 5
By Design Not Default: Optimizing District Spending on Small High Schools
Education Resource Strategies
School districts across the country are redesigning their portfolios of high schools to include more small high schools. Over the past three years Education Resource Strategies (ERS), with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, partnered with both schools and districts to understand spending in small high schools and document how these schools leverage all of their resources--people, time, and dollars--to best support student learning. This work by ERS demonstrated a clear and consistent pattern: districts spent 10 to 20 percent more per pupil on small high schools than they did on large high schools, for two primary reasons: (1) Small high schools tended to be staffed and run like large high schools; and (2) Districts deliberately awarded additional staff to small schools above required staffing levels (Frank & Feinberg, 2008). This additional spending is not necessarily undesirable. Schools with lower per-pupil spending often suffer from insufficient resources and extra spending may be necessary to boost achievement. In addition, if, as some research suggests, more students stay in school and graduate from small high schools than from large high schools, higher spending on small schools may even result in a lower cost per graduate. ERS has developed a tool to help decision makers better understand, quantify, and more strategically deploy the resources used to support small high schools in their own district contexts. This paper uses this tool--called the "Small School Spending" (SSS) tool--to model how resources would be allocated to small schools if districts, as they typically do, use large high school rules to govern allocation. The tool allows district and school leaders to plug in numbers representing current district practice (e.g., number of guidance counselors allocated to each school) and change the assumptions to model different scenarios in terms of school size, staffing ratios, etc. The model helps decision makers clearly understand the tradeoffs involved in allocating resources. An appendix presents: Background on How Staffing Ratios Work and Drive Spending Differentials in Small and Large Schools. (Contains 6 endnotes and 7 figures.)
Education Resource Strategies. 480 Pleasant Street Suite C-200, Watertown, MA 02472. Tel: 617-607-8000; Fax: 617-600-6613; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: High Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Authoring Institution: Education Resource Strategies
Identifiers - Location: Illinois; Maryland; Massachusetts