How productive is your district?

How well does your local school district spend its money? The Center for American Progress has ranked the educational productivity of more than 7,000 school districts.

Productivity ratings are adjusted for factors including “cost-of-living differences and higher concentrations of low-income, non-English-speaking, and special education students,” according to the report.

Few states and districts track “the bang . . . for their education buck,” writes analyst Ulrich Boser.

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Analysts also looked at “twin” districts with similar students but different spending levels and results.

Of the more than 400 twin districts studied, we found the higher-spending twin spent on average $1,600 more per student to educate similar groups of students to similar achievement levels. . . . We also found a number of districts that spent equal amounts of money, had the same demographics, but ended up with different levels of student achievement.

Another report analyzes the nation’s most financially disadvantaged districts.

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  1. cranberry says:

    Very strange results. From looking at a few schools in our state I know something of, it seems to me that the formula deems “efficient” school systems which significantly under-identify special education students, and don’t keep their physical plant in good shape.

    A district which spends money on special ed is spending more money per student. You can’t compare one district to another without taking special ed funding into account. And there are no firm guidelines for identifying a kid as special ed. More affluent districts will identify more kids as special ed, because the parents are more savvy, and less likely to back down. A child who is special ed in one district might not be special ed in a neighboring district. The special ed rate is not constant between districts.

  2. My district is very happy about their relatively low nonsped per pupil cost. The students are not, because many of them have the choice of study hall or paying for college classes, ap, or distance learning. It is impossible to have a full senior schedule if the student is college bound…the district refuses to offer electives such as AP Physics, and has the student paying college or ap fees to take social studoes and english. Part time home schooling is illegal in this state..a kid cant use his half day to work on a science or en gineering project…but he can go work as a cashier!

    • cranberry says:

      Yes, there is one school system which is “green” on their list, of which I know details because relatives live in the town. The “productivity” is driven by a very low level of academic offerings. At the time, there were courses listed which were not (really) offered. And the rate of identification for sped was low, which does not mean the students didn’t have needs.

      Similar towns are rated yellow or red for being less “productive,” but they manage to get more of their students ready for college, in part by addressing obvious special needs when the children are younger.

      To fairly judge productivity, one would need to remove sped spending and sped students from the comparison. Then one would need to estimate the true rates of sped prevalence in each system. So if a system recognizes 5% of its students as sped, but the real rate is somewhere around 15%, they don’t get a productivity gold star for denying students services.