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School Money and Performance

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The 74 Million, 9/10/18

Study shows boosting funds to poor school districts lifts student achievement but fails to narrow racial & socioeconomic achievement gaps

An article published earlier this year in the American Economic Journal…finds that districts provided with increased revenues by school finance reforms see improvements in standardized test scores, though the extra money hasn’t helped close persistent gaps between various racial and socioeconomic groups. Not everyone is convinced of the study’s findings, however. Eric Hanushek, an education economist and fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution, said that, “The difficult analytical issue is how you separate out spending from all kinds of other things, like changing the requirements for teacher certification, or changing the accountability rules, or the variety of things that state legislatures do over time.”

The 74 Million, 9/5/18

Walsh: Teacher residencies are fine. But districts already have the power to fix the student teacher pipeline — at far lower cost

With an average sticker price of $65,000 per resident teacher, the residency model is an impractical solution to the many challenges of the labor market. Clearly, residency programs can help some districts avoid staffing shortfalls, but there are problems with casting them as the best opportunity districts have to shape and redirect the talent pipeline. A more readily available, scalable, and affordable option is already available: fixing the pipeline of prospective teachers who enter through student teaching. Ultimately, a strong student teaching program can accomplish many of the same outcomes as a high-quality residency program — but on a much larger scale. Traditional teacher preparation programs graduate more than 150,000 teachers per year, while residencies produce a tiny fraction of this number.

Education Dive, 9/5/18

What did a New Mexico district learn after one year operating on a four-day week?

Cobre Consolidated School District Superintendent Robert Mendoza told PBS that a shorter week has lowered absenteeism rates. On top of that, New Mexico — which continues to struggle recruiting and retaining teachers —did not have any trouble hiring teachers for this past school year after the week was shortened, Mendoza said. But officials looked to make the change because of budgets, and the average savings from the switch is miniscule — it ranges from 0.4% to 2.5%, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  It’s also less time for learning. To make up for fewer days in class, students spend more time in school the four days they’re there and have shorter breaks. But in CCSD, that’s still 22 fewer days in the classroom each year.

Washington Post, 8/27/18

2 in 3 Americans say public school teachers are underpaid

A new poll shows that most Americans say public-school teachers are underpaid. 73 percent said they would support public-school teachers in their community if they went on strike for higher pay. Support was even higher among parents of public-school students who would be most affected, at 78 percent. The survey also found two-thirds of people say teacher salaries are too low. That general impression was affirmed when people were asked about $39,000 as a starting salary — the national average; 65 percent said that was too low. Conversely, just 6 percent of all adults said teacher salaries are too high.

Education Week, 8/24/18

District spending is about to get a lot more transparent. Are you ready?

ESSA requires districts to publish per-pupil allocations for actual personnel and non-personnel expenditures by each funding source (federal, state, and local funds), for each district, and school on their annual report cards. In the short term, superintendents and principals will need to get on the same page about current district allocation policies and practices, why some schools appear to get more resources than others, and how this all aligns with the stated vision and mission of the district. Over the long term, the new expenditure reporting requirements will push superintendents to be more strategic about managing productivity. This new transparency will make it easier for the public to investigate the relationship between academic and financial data.

Education Dive, 8/20/18

Students of color in low-poverty, diverse schools still face achievement gaps

While faring better than their peers in high-poverty schools, students of color and low-income students in wealthier schools still lag behind their higher-income and white classmates. This is largely due to unequal access to educational, personal and sociopolitical resources outside of school, according to an extensive report by Public Impact, commissioned by the Oak Foundation. The authors recommend that leaders of low-poverty schools do more to provide “outstanding learning for all, secure and healthy learners, and a culture of equity within low- and moderate-poverty schools.” The report examined approaches with evidence of boosting outcomes for disadvantaged students without reducing the availability of advanced instruction.

NPR, 8/14/18

Colorado school district switches to 4-day week to save money

District 27J, one of the state’s larger districts, has dropped Mondays from the school week and switched to a four-day schedule as of Tuesday, the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year. Superintendent Chris Fiedler said that the district will save on transportation costs, teaching salaries and districtwide utilities.  “We anticipate about $1 million in savings,” Fiedler said.  Fiedler estimates that running fewer school buses alone will save the district about $700,000. The district plans to offer child care on Mondays for $30 per child per day. Students will attend regular classes Tuesday through Friday and class time will be extended by 40 minutes per day. Our friends at CRPE have researched and shared their thoughts on this topic in their June report, “What Do We Actually Know about the Four-Day School Week?”

Education Week, 8/9/18

What Is ESSA’s new school-spending transparency requirement, and how will it work?

This school year, an often-overlooked provision in the Every Student Succeeds Act will offer some deeper information when states start reporting to the public school-by-school spending. Actual school spending—rather than average district per-pupil spending—can reveal where the most experienced teachers are working, whether racial minorities and districts’ neediest children are receiving their fair (and necessary) share of tax dollars, and if schools that get the same amount of money are getting the same academic results. ESSA for the first time requires the public reporting of that data, starting in the 2018-19 school year. But how to collect and report this data, a technically challenging and politically thorny process, has roiled the school finance community.

Forbes, 8/7/18

It’s not all about the money: To understand teacher protests, look beyond low pay

Of all K-12 public school teachers who left their jobs during the 2012-13 period, only 6.8% said they did so as a result of their salary, according to the most recent figures from the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. So what else is pushing teachers out of the profession and stopping more qualified people from entering it? An analysis of the Grand Challenges facing the education system found that the most salient issues cover a variety of themes, but the biggest one that jumps out is school culture. Many teachers protested in part as a response to dilapidated classroom conditions. When teachers went on strike in Oklahoma, beyond asking for a pay raise, they also demanded a $200 million increase in public school funding to improve school buildings and services.

SBNation, 7/31/18

How LeBron James’ new public school really is the first of its kind

James’ I Promise School opened Monday to serve low-income and at-risk students in his hometown.  I Promise will feature longer school days, a non-traditional school year, and greater access to the school, its facilities, and its teachers during down time for students. That’s a formula aimed at replicating some of the at-home support children may be missing when it comes to schoolwork. I Promise is a regular public school, not a charter or a voucher-receiving private school.  Per the state of Ohio, Akron’s schools were given just $10,028 in state and local funds per student in 2016 — more than the statewide average, but still a relatively low figure for a city of a little under 200,000.  Ten thousand dollars per student can’t cover those services, but the buy-in from the LeBron James Family Foundation can.