States can’t buy graduation success

Spending and graduation rates aren’t correlated, writes Dan Walters in the Sacramento Bee. citing Manhattan Institute data.

New Jersey tops all states, according to a recent Census Bureau report of 2003-04 data, in per-pupil school spending at $12,981 and also, as mentioned earlier, is tops in high school graduation rates. But beyond that, the correlation completely collapses. New York, for example, is second in per-pupil spending at $12,930 but is 47th in graduation rate at 58 percent. Conversely, Utah, dead last in spending at $5,008, is 14th in graduation rate at 77 percent.

. . . Clearly, money alone is not the panacea that advocates in the educational community would have us believe. Other factors – ethnicity, peer pressure, families, culture, English proficiency, curriculum, instructional quality, etc. – evidently play powerful roles in determining whether students make it through high school and thus acquire the fundamental basis for successful adult lives.

California districts with above-average graduation rates have above-average numbers of white and Asian-American students, Walters notes. San Francisco does much better than Los Angeles, which has a higher percentage of Hispanic and black students.

An education researcher once told me he’d tried to calculate how much spending would be needed to equalize the differences between the children of poor, uneducated single mothers and kids from educated, middle-class, two-parent families. He thought it could be done for absurd sums — basically a private tutor for every disadvantaged child.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. I agree: a private tutor for each kid.

    I disagree that it needs to cost absurd sums. That’s the premise of our MATCH Corps program.

    Each kid gets about 350 hours per year of very high quality 1-on-1 tutoring in exchange for about $3000 per child. Ie, per pupil spending in most cities would have to rise from 10k to 13k. Not cheap but not absurd.

    In fact, NCLB gives parents in failing schools the Title I voucher worth around $1500 to buy private tutoring.

  2. Which makes me wonder why society should be expected to pay the current $10K if $3K will buy one-on-one tutoring? And, what we’re getting for our tax dollars if, to make the $10K worth spending we have to spend an additional $3K?

  3. Out of curiosity, does anyone even attempt to norm these spending numbers with things like Cost of Living in the areas?

    Or should we just assume that it costs as much to do anything in Utah as it does in Hawaii or Alaska?

    Statistics are like a bikini – what they show is interesting, what they hide is crucial!

  4. Wayne Martin says:

    > Out of curiosity, does anyone even attempt
    > to norm these spending numbers with things
    > like Cost of Living in the areas?

    Generally not. This doesn’t keep education “advocates” in low-cost states from constantly noting that “other states” (meaning the high-cost states) spend more than “we do” on education funding.

  5. trotsky says:

    Utah’s doesn’t have an especially low cost of living. The demographics are just excellent. Per-capita income in Provo and Logan, Utah, would make them as poor as Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, yet Mormons have impossibly stable families. Not that they don’t have problems, but they have a lot fewer of them.

  6. BadaBing says:

    We have a great guy running for governor out here in Kalifornia. His name is Steve Wertz, and he’s promising more spending for education and more after school programs. A novel approach, I’m sure. Of course, parents, family and home life have nothing to do with it, do they?

  7. My high school spends less per student than the average California school, has larger-than-average class sizes and has fewer-than-average available computers for students. Yet it boasts a 98-99% graduation rate (and everybody seems to breeze through the California High School Exit Exam as well) with most going on to attend college. Could it be because the school is located in a nice neighborhood and the parents are incredibly invested in their children’s education? Community and family play huge parts in the education process, methinks. Simply sinking money into state-of-the-art equipment and programs won’t work. Wasn’t there a recent article on here attesting to that?

    There has to be a way to fix up these neighborhoods, although it’s probably more difficult than just spending money on more stuff for the schools (although yes, all schools should have enough funding to afford textbooks for all of their students!)…

  8. Wayne Martin says:

    > all schools should have
    > enough funding to afford textbooks for
    > all of their students

    e-Books and other forms of digital distribution offer to provide students with low cost educational materials. Most school boards have seen little interest in this technology. Even printing-on-demand seems to be a non-starter for school administrators.

    The people seem ignorant of the possibilities that digital distribution offers, both in terms of availability and cost reduction.

  9. [email protected] says:

    Greetings,

    Other than private tutoring, I haven’t seen anyone mention changes in teaching practices. It seems to me that since there are already schools who are having success with students from less than perfect homes and communities and they’re not spending more money, that we should look at the practices of these schools and incorporate them in schools that aren’t being as successful.

    For example, look at American Indian Public Charter, or Ralph Bunche Elementary or perhaps some of the KIPP Middle schools. These are schools that are having tremendous success with kids that most schools don’t want and they’re doing it for the same or less money that other schools in the state.

    For me, while the impact of a student’s home life on their academic performance is interesting as a factor, it isn’t the REASON. The reason they aren’t being successful is because we as their educators haven’t found the right method to help them be successful. I think that’s one of the points of Joanne’s book.

    Thanks,

    Dave

  10. Dave wrote:

    that we should look at the practices of these schools and incorporate them in schools that aren’t being as successful.

    Why?

    What reason do we – by which I assume you mean the remainder of the public education system – have to look at successful practices and use them? What’s the reason that policies that ensure educational success should have precedence over policies that appeal to the vanity of the policy-deciders?

  11. What did I say? Also see this for a variable that does correlate with educational success.

  12. > all schools should have
    > enough funding to afford textbooks for
    > all of their students

    As someone else pointed out, digitized texts solve that problem — but why, exactly, so taxpayers need to buy textbooks for schools? Taxpayers don’t pay for any of my university students’ textbooks. I fail to see why taxpayers should by textbooks at lower levels.

  13. Well, YMMV, but I believe that all kids deserve at least a high school education (or the opportunity to pursue one). University is a bit different. Your argument is akin to saying: “Well, people aren’t forced to go to university, why should we force them to go to high school?” College and high school are not the same and should not be under the same standards.

  14. Indigo Warrior says:

    An education researcher once told me he’d tried to calculate how much spending would be needed to equalize the differences between the children of poor, uneducated single mothers and kids from educated, middle-class, two-parent families. He thought it could be done for absurd sums — basically a private tutor for every disadvantaged child.

    Private tutors hardly require an astronomic sum. Most of them can do a much better job for a fraction of the cost of a typical college-education-department-trained and KGB-union-certified teacher. And most of the cost hemorrhage of the status quo public system goes into greedy corrupt administrators, “educational” programs with no educational value, and the cult of vicious gangsterism known as school athletics.

  15. jj wrote:

    Well, YMMV, but I believe that all kids deserve at least a high school education (or the opportunity to pursue one).

    Yes, but the public education system doesn’t represent the free exercise of a right. It’s mandatory both in attendence and funding. How many other “rights” can you think of that are so vital that they’re a legal obligation?

Trackbacks

  1. Money Doesn’t Solve Problems

    You’d really think educators would figure that out by now….