ERIC Number: EJ913042
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Jan-26
Reference Count: N/A
Districts' Efficiency Evaluated in Report
Samuels, Christina A.
Education Week, v30 n18 p1, 16 Jan 2011
A report from a progressive think tank measuring the "educational productivity" of more than 9,000 school districts around the country says that districts getting the most for their money tend to spend more on teachers and less on administration, partner with their communities to save money, and have school boards willing to make potentially unpopular decisions, like closing underenrolled schools. The study, from the Washington-based Center for American Progress, attempts to measure district productivity nationwide. Almost every K-12 school district in the country with more than 250 students was included, and the information has been compiled in a website that allows users to compare districts within states. The attempt to drill down on productivity--what districts are getting in terms of student achievement in math and reading for their education dollar--is particularly appropriate now, as relief to districts from the federal economic-stimulus program is petering out, and an economic upswing is not on the horizon. The report is part of a series from the center examining government accountability and efficiency. The analysis is intended to encourage a more sophisticated discussion rather than just suggesting district funding should be cut in the name of encouraging efficiency. One district the center singled out for productivity was the Harlan Independent School District, which has around 950 students and is located in a coal-mining community in southeastern Kentucky. Based on the center's measures, the district is doing a good job getting strong academic results with its predominantly low-income student population. Most of the other districts deemed efficient were larger and wealthier, so the Harlan Independent district is an outlier. But the report did single out practices of other districts, like Franklin in Franklin, Massachusetts, a 6,200-student district that merged its technology department with the town to save money. The 600-student Poyen district in Poyen, Arkansas, partners with a community college to offer its students free college courses. But some researchers caution that this type of analysis is so complicated that policymakers must be careful about drawing specific conclusions. The report itself offers a range of caveats, noting that researchers cannot account for all the variables outside the control of a district, or for flaws in the databases they used. However, it does draw some policy suggestions from the data--some of which are an "absurd stretch of logic." For example, the report does not adequately account for the extra resources it takes to educate disadvantaged students and it could give more ammunition to people who want to cut school funding.
Descriptors: School Districts, Efficiency, Productivity, Educational Finance, Expenditures, Elementary Secondary Education, Academic Achievement, School Community Relationship, Outcomes of Education, Reports
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Arkansas; Kentucky; Massachusetts; Wisconsin