Money and equity

Should judges order more school spending in the name of educational equity? In Horne vs. Flores, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a lower-court decision ordering Arizona to spend more on educating English Language Learners.  By a 5-4 vote, the court told the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to consider “whether Arizona has complied with civil-rights law by improving both English-learner programs and K-12 education overall,” reports the Arizona Republic. Spending more doesn’t necessarily mean educating more effectively, the majority said.

The decision stopped short of dismissing the case but could hand back to Arizona lawmakers the power to determine how much is spent on English instruction and how such students are taught.

The majority decision quoted research by Hoover fellow Eric Hanushek and school finance lawyer Alfred Lindseth, authors of the just-published Schoolhouses, Courthouses and Statehouses, which argues that court-ordered funding hasn’t boosted achievement.  The minority opinion quoted the opposing views of Michael Rebell of Teachers’ College Columbia.  

Education Next asks Hanushek and Rebell to discuss: Is there a link between school spending and student achievement? What’s the court’s role?

Hanushek and Lindseth argue for more effective use of education dollars:

Since about 1970, the achievement levels of U.S. students on the reading and math tests of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have remained largely flat despite massive financial and other efforts to improve them. The problem is particularly acute for poor and minority students, with the average black and the average Hispanic student lagging three or four grade levels behind the average white student.

The solution we need lies in performance-based funding: a system of integrated education policies and funding mechanisms designed to drive and reward better performance by teachers, administrators, students, and others involved in the education process.

Rebell responds that courts must ensure “meaningful educational opportunities for all children.”

 The evidence strongly indicates that money well spent does make a significant difference in student achievement.

What is most likely to fulfill the promise of improved student outcomes in the future is not any silver bullet remedy, but rather a pragmatic process that allows courts, legislatures, state education departments, and school districts to work collaboratively to focus on children’s needs and to implement meaningful reforms on a sustained basis.

How do we get “money well spent” vs. more money spent the same old way that hasn’t worked well before?

About Joanne

Comments

  1. How do we get “money well spent” vs. more money spent the same old way that hasn’t worked well before?

    By not putting the money through the same organizational structure as it went through the last time and setting explicit goals for the organization to which every professional in the organization must make a measurable contribution consonant with their area of responsibility and for which a measuring instrument is created.

  2. Remember when the US Supreme Court cited evolving standards of decency, as exemplified by foreigh law, to overturn the death penalty? Let’s apply analogous reasoning, evolving strandards of fiscal decency as exemplified by foreign per-pupil budgets, to set US school budgets.

    “What works?” is an empirical question. “What resources are required to raise the median level of US 14-year-olds in Reading and Math performance to the median of OECD countries?” is an empirical question, the answer is likely: “Considerably less, in a competitive market in education services, than US taxpayers currently spend, but more than the entire world’s GDP given continued control by the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel.”

    Pour as many resources as you like down that rat hole and all you’ll get is fatter rats.

  3. tim-10-ber says:

    Why not make a paradigm shift in the way forced schooling er public education is done in this country. Today we have 5 and 6 year olds regardless of school readiness in kindergarden, 6 and 7 year olds in first grade etc.

    Why not spend money assessing each student before they start school? Why not determine what each child knows, what they don’t know, are they emotionally ready for school, etc.?

    Then once the children are appropriately placed within the institution er system they are assessed again at the end of the year (hopefully one more time during the year). As the students show mastery of the subject matter being taught they need to be allowed to keep progressing even if that means moving up a grade level or two for that subject.

    For those subjects where the student is performing at grade level…well, that is where they stay and they progress to the next grade for that subject at the end of the year.

    If the student is lagging behind in a subject then they do not progress in that subject until they have mastered it.

    Why is this such a foreign idea? It is a perfectly logical progression of anyone’s development (adult, teenager or child), isn’t it?

    Our public school institutions are overwhelming faced with educated students that either do not speak english, have extreme learning disabilities or come from abject poverty. Many of the kids from poverty have little family or community support to truly get them ready for school.

    We know head start and pre-kindergarden programs are not that successful as they, like many regular classrooms seem designed to be babysitters more than teachers. They have become a place for parents to drop kids to get them out of their hair.

    Why not change this? Why not let children progress at their own pace while being pushed appropriately forward to master the subject matter? Once mastery (not just being proficient but mastery) has been achieved then they move to the next level.

    Seems like a no brainer to me and a much better use of a very limited resource. I firmly believe public schools have too much money and waste it because they have no willingness to change, be more effective and therefore more efficient with the resources they have been given by the tax payer.

    Just my two cents worth…

  4. Tim-10-ber, your suggestion would make sense if the goal were to educate children as efficiently as possible. But apparently it’s just as important to create good citizens, which may be why attending school feels so much like reporting for jury duty.

  5. Considering the approximately 15 point difference in average IQ’s for whites versus blacks, is it appropriate to say that schools are failing because both groups don’t have identical achievements?

    Same question using the 10-12 point difference between white and hispanic IQ’s.

    Considering the 6 points difference in average IQ’s for folks of East Asian heritage compared to whites, should parents of East Asian heritage say that the schools are failing their children if they only achieve identical scores to whites?

    If the solution proposed is “performance-based funding” how would schools with significant percentages of Non-Asian Minorities be fairly measured against schools without?

    I don’t have a better framing of a question leading to a solution than Malcolm’s: “What resources are required to raise the median level of US 14-year-olds in Reading and Math performance to the median of OECD countries?” But I can say that defining failure as “persistent differences in achievement between races” will not lead us in a productive direction as long as IQ differences remain.

  6. (Tim): “Why not let children progress at their own pace while being pushed appropriately forward to master the subject matter? Once mastery (not just being proficient but mastery) has been achieved then they move to the next level.”

    Self-paced instruction would enhance the performance of the system. Insiders will oppose self-paced (self)instruction, as it would demonstrate the irrelevance of a majority of the school workforce.

    Why suppose that a system which features State (government, generally) selection of the curriculum would outperform a system which allows parents to select the curriculum? More generally, why suppose that a system which involves assessment by State agents will outperform a system which leaves all decisions to parents? This is not a rhetorical question.

    Bart,

    Compulsory attendance at school does not create good citizens. Compulsory attendance (State-mandated parental neglect) is child abuse.

  7. MikeP wrote:

    If the solution proposed is “performance-based funding” how would schools with significant percentages of Non-Asian Minorities be fairly measured against schools without?

    The assumption being that – and how delicately you approach the subject – Non-Asian Minorities are genetically inferior to Non-Asian Non-Minorities and Asian Minorities. It’s certainly a convenient assumption but let’s start with a different assumption.

    Let’s assume that some kids are more difficult to teach for reasons not quite so conveniently intractable as genetic inferiority. Let’s further assume that some teachers are better then other teachers and capable of overcoming whatever impediments to learning are faced by those Non-Asian Minorities.

    With those assumptions in mind it becomes much easier to see that the purpose of “educational equity” proponents has nothing to do with education and everything to do with money inasmuch as educational outcomes are treated as nothing more then extensions of funding levels. The kids and the teachers barely matter since they’re qualities are secondary, if not less important, to the volume of bucks you can arrange to have poured into the system.

    If you want different outcomes in a school you change the personnel. If you want different outcomes across the breadth of the public education system you change the structure of public education.

  8. Let’s assume that some kids are more difficult to teach for reasons not quite so conveniently intractable as genetic inferiority.

    Starting with assumptions chosen for their palatability rather than their factual support is one of the cancers eating American public education.

  9. allen –

    If you dispute that different races have different average IQ’s, let me point you to http://www.news-medical.net/news/2005/04/26/9530.aspx .

    If you agree with the conclusions of the article (and many studies like it) then are you suggesting that differing educational results for different races are de facto a failure on the part of our education system? That was a point in the Hanushek and Rebell interview Joanne cited. Disputing that was my main point.

    And if you disagree with the cited article, then you would certainly disagree with my point.

    If your main point was that some teachers are better than others, we are in agreement. I also would like to change our education system so that better teachers are retained, marginal ones retrained, and intractably poor ones removed.

    Oh, and I think people with IQ’s of 85 are inferior to people with IQ’s of 115 in the same way that people who can only lift 85lbs are inferior to people who can lift 115kg: we are all people, but some of us will achieve better results in some situations than others. But regardless of race, or IQ, all are deserving of a good education.

  10. (Allen): “Let’s assume that some kids are more difficult to teach for reasons not quite so conveniently intractable as genetic inferiority.
    (Engineer): “Starting with assumptions chosen for their palatability rather than their factual support is one of the cancers eating American public education.”

    I do not see this at all. Partitioning an argument by making assumptions explicit makes sense and indicates common courtesy. Further, environmental factors quite obviously contribute to differences in performance as measured by standardized tests.

  11. (MikeP): “…regardless of race, or IQ, all are deserving of a good education.”

    Are all deserving of having someone else’s definition of “a good education” imposed on them? Are all taxpayers deserving of laboring under threat of forcible infection with HIV (imprisonment) to support the people who supply “a good education” defined by others?

  12. Malcolm –

    I would support a voucher or other system that allowed parents to choose the education that they forced upon their children.

  13. Ragnarok says:

    MikeP,

    It’s quite possible that genetics and race are partly responsible for IQ, but you can find better supporting sources than the paper by Rushton which you referenced.

    From William Saletan of Slate:

    “For the past five years, J. Philippe Rushton has been president of the Pioneer Fund, an organization dedicated to “the scientific study of heredity and human differences.” During this time, the fund has awarded at least $70,000 to the New Century Foundation. To get a flavor of what New Century stands for, check out its publications on crime (“Everyone knows that blacks are dangerous”) and heresy (“Unless whites shake off the teachings of racial orthodoxy they will cease to be a distinct people”). New Century publishes a magazine called American Renaissance, which preaches segregation. Rushton routinely speaks at its conferences.”

    http://www.slate.com/id/2178122/entry/2178703/fr/rss/

  14. Richard Aubrey says:

    To answer the question in the post about spending money well….
    Shoot all the ‘crats.
    More efficiently, if less traditionally, and less satisfying, expand vouchers.

  15. I would support a voucher or other system that allowed parents to choose the education that they forced upon their children.

    What’s really bizarre is that it almost doesn’t matter what’s done – charters, vouchers, tax credits, educational equity suits – as long as it’s something structural that changes.

    Ed equity law suits, counter-intuitively, would undermine the current public education system for exactly the reason the district system was created, to ensure unequal spending. Once rich people can’t lavish what they have lots of on their kids in their tony suburban public schools they’ll find a way to do so outside the public system. And system that’s been deserted by all the rich people becomes, by definition, a second-class education system.

  16. (Allen): “What’s really bizarre is that it almost doesn’t matter what’s done – charters, vouchers, tax credits, educational equity suits – as long as it’s something structural that changes.”

    Different policies affect different groups, over time. Milton Friedman expressed a preference for tuition vouchers over charter schools because, he suggested, that the shorter leash on which charter schools operate would tempt the education establishment to reassert control, through modification of charter school laws. The Cato Institute prefers tuition tax credits to vouchers, mostly, it seems to me, because the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel’s anti-voucher propaganda has worked to make vouchers politically unpalatable. I wonder if there isn’t an element of class bias at work here, also; tuition tax credits work only for those who earn enough to pay income taxes.

    (Allen): “Ed equity law suits, counter-intuitively, would undermine the current public education system for exactly the reason the district system was created, to ensure unequal spending. Once rich people can’t lavish what they have lots of on their kids in their tony suburban public schools they’ll find a way to do so outside the public system. And system that’s been deserted by all the rich people becomes, by definition, a second-class education system.”

    Given the performance of Hawaii’s single, State-wide school district, and the Washington, DC school district, this looks excessively optimistic to me, Allen. So long as voters implicitly accept and endorse political control of school, industry insiders will find a way to cut a deal with politically adept parents (e.g., through G/T classes, academic tracking, ability grouping, or magnet schools). “Equity” litigation will not have the effect its promoters advertise.

    Milton Friedman once wrote that a system for the poor only is a poor system. In most of the US today, there is no effective constituency for parent control. Years ago, Myron Lieberman predicted that effective reform would occur after mounting financial committments (Medicare, Social Security) to more effective constituencies (old people, who vote more reliably than poor people) would compel legislators to reassess their options.

  17. It’s my contention that the problems of public education in the U.S., along with exhibiting the usual problems of all public education systems, demonstrate a couple of wrinkles peculiar to the U.S.

    The main difference between the U.S. and the public education systems of other nations is in it’s distributed nature – the district system. A political necessity required to establish the system the district system confers a degree of independence on relatively small political entities that’s unique to the U.S.

    That independence was necessary to ensure inequitable funding since that would’ve been the only way to entice the wealthy to acquiesce to participation in the system. Faced with the prospect of not being able to give their children an advantage the wealthy, those with the greatest political influence, would quit naturally fought the establishment of the public education system tooth and nail. In a political battle it’s best not to provide reasons for the most powerful members of society to be on the opposing side.

    But what was true at the inception of the public education system is true now; give the wealthy a reason to depart the system, or rather, remove their reasons for staying in the system, and they’ll take their money with them or make a tough fight of doing so. I doubt that, deprived of the option of sending their kids to well-funded suburban public schools they’d willingly continue to fund the public education system. Like I pointed out, the “Robin Hood” education funding system in Texas has resulted in a depression of the housing prices of the wealthy which is simply a reflexive response. A more overt and calculated response is inevitable.

    But the district system, even though it’s a distributed system, consists locally of rigid hierarchies with all the usual shortcomings that that organizational form is inevitably heir to.

    Districts may indeed try to respond to the demands of wealthy parents that their children receive a better education via “G/T classes, academic tracking, ability grouping, or magnet schools” but the nature of the hierarchical form doesn’t lend itself to flexibility or responsiveness and is inherently resistant to and corrosive of, accountability.

    Flexibility and responsiveness are achieved by pushing authority down the organizational structure which calls into question the need for the “top” of the pyramid. Obviously, it’ll take an unusual district superintendent to embrace policies that bring into question the need for a district superintendent.

    That’s why I wrote that any of the mentioned innovations are worthwhile. If the problem’s the structure of public education, as I maintain, then anything that calls into question the structure of public education is to the good.