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Trends in the News

School Money and Performance

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Education Week, 4/9/19

More education studies look at cost-effectiveness

What’s more important to a superintendent: a math program shown to give a bigger boost to students’ math skills in the next two years or one that gives a smaller improvement but fits the district’s budget for five years? Questions like that have become steadily more common as school leaders grapple with years of shrinking budgets. Still, it can be difficult to understand the expenses that lie beneath an intervention’s sticker price or the resources that may mean the difference between a promising intervention working on paper and working in the classroom. That’s why foundations, policymakers, and even the U.S. Department of Education’s research agency are pushing for more tools and research to help educators understand the costs of education programs.

Education Week, 4/8/19

Investing in principal talent pays off in higher math and reading scores, study finds

A new study of six school districts that made heavy investments in strengthening their cadre of school leaders underscores the key role principals play in their schools’ academic success. The report, by researchers at RAND Corporation, looked at the six-year, $85 million “principal pipeline” initiative supported by the Wallace Foundation. Schools that got new principals in 2011-12 as part of the pipeline initiative outperformed other schools in their states that were not in the program by 6.22 percentile points in reading and 2.87 percentile points in math three years after the new school leader was hired, researchers found. The program was also relatively affordable for districts, the report found. Over five years, the initiative cost $210 per student if looking at its impact districtwide and $373 if looking solely at students in schools with principals who received the full “treatment” of the initiative.

Education Resource Strategies, 4/9/19

ERS report on common ingredients for transforming districts

The District at Work series from national nonprofit Education Resource Strategies (ERS) profiles eight school systems – including large traditional districts and charter networks, all serving high populations of low-income, black and Latinx students – that are gaining traction across a variety of measures like student performance, graduation rates, or support for teachers and school leaders. Each school system tackled a familiar challenge, like adding time for teacher collaboration or guiding principals amidst budget uncertainty. ERS finds one common ingredient: the central office better supported schools by setting a clear vision for success and following through with tough resource tradeoffs and redesigned processes, including roles, timelines, and mindsets. These are the gears that power effective implementation and student results that last. It’s not the next silver bullet – it’s evidence that strategy and implementation matter.

EdSource, 4/4/19

Oakland Unified gets unprecedented help with fiscal practices

Oakland Unified recently attracted statewide attention when its teachers won higher pay, smaller classes and more staff support after a seven-day strike. As attention turns to how to pay for the four-year contract, Oakland is again in the spotlight for the unprecedented help it has received from the Alameda County Office of Education to overhaul its fiscal practices. A county team is providing assistance and training in the district’s business office amid budget cuts and a central office reorganization that includes the elimination of the chief business officer position. While the county office routinely helps districts with their finances, the assistance being given to Oakland is intense and unprecedented among districts statewide, said Michael Fine, CEO of the Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team, or FCMAT, a state agency that assists districts with financial matters.

Education Week, 3/29/19

Philadelphia Superintendent on leading through a financial crisis and raising expectations for students

Education Week spoke with William Hite earlier this month about his tenure, continuing challenges the district faces, bright spots, and advice for other urban district leaders confronting conditions like the ones he encountered when he first arrived in Philadelphia. “We do an annual budget because we have to by law. But we do a five-year financial plan because we want people to see what five years out would look like if in fact we don’t fix the revenue problem or the expenditure problem,” said Hite.

American Federation for Children, 12/28/18

Bringing Title I into the twenty-first century

This paper explores how the Title I program fits into today’s educational landscape and how it can evolve to better meet the needs of the students the program was designed to serve…Our federal lawmakers must improve the Title I program, given the rise of parental choice in education, the limited transparency in current Title I funding formulas, and the lack of evidence of the effectiveness of the Title I program as currently designed. One innovative solution would be to make federal aid to low-income students portable to their school of choice – this paper explores the potential impact of this approach in a state-based case study.

Chalkbeat, 3/26/19

In a shift, Chicago to prop up budgets at schools struggling to attract students

Most Chicago schools will get a budget boost this fall as the city adds new programs and props up spending at schools with low enrollment. But a third of city-run schools will see their budgets decline amid a shift in the way Chicago funds school budgets. Overall, Chicago Public Schools will send $60 million more to schools next school year, according to numbers shared with principals on Monday. That total reflects nearly $90 million in new programs — and a $30 million loss at several schools because of overall declining enrollment. A large portion of the money — $31 million — will go to “equity grants” to 219 schools that are struggling with enrollment. The money is intended to help those schools maintain or even bulk up programs with the aim of attracting more families. The district will spread another $6 million among 100 or so schools with the highest concentrations of English language learners.

Statesman, 3/19/19

$9B school finance bill advances to Texas House

A bill that would inject an additional $6 billion into Texas classrooms over the next two years advanced to the Texas House on Tuesday, without a provision that teachers groups feared would have tied a portion of their pay to their students’ performance on state standardized tests. The 13-member House Committee on Public Education unanimously approved House Bill 3, which has the backing of an overwhelming majority of House members. Among other things, HB 3 would: “increase base funding per student from $5,140 to $6,030, eliminate outdated formula elements, and provide funding for full-day pre-kindergarten”

The 74 Million, 3/17/19

America’s schools are starved for funds, and teachers are paying the price. Recent strikes are only a symptom of this disease.

These strikes are the symptom of a larger disease within our education system, where the support our students and teachers are receiving is as crumbling as the infrastructure of the schools. The strikes prove that our educational system’s problems are deeper and broader than individual protests about teacher wages and benefits. Everywhere, America’s schools are pressed for resources and facing dire conditions that unfairly hinder students’ ability to succeed. Our lawmakers are not adequately investing in education. Following the 2008 recession, many states sacrificed school funding in an attempt to make ends meet. However, in 29 states, total state and local school funding combined fell over the next eight years. Rather than tamp down teachers’ right to strike, as some states are looking to do, we must acknowledge these walkouts as a sign of the need for long-term solutions and increased investment in education.

Education Week, 3/5/19

How teacher strikes are changing

While last year’s teacher walkouts were focused primarily on stagnant wages and crumbling classrooms, the strike demands now are more far-reaching. Teachers are pushing back against education reform policies such as charter schools and performance-based pay. They’re also fighting for social-justice initiatives like sanctuary protections for undocumented students. Although some experts say there’s a risk of losing public support as teachers become more political in their demands, the strikes so far have retained community involvement and have all been relatively successful. Even as the protests move from red states to blue cities, there is still a coherent narrative in place: Teachers are underpaid, asked to do more with less, and fed up.