Throwing Money at Education Isn't Working

It is hard to argue with the conclusions drawn by Kristen De Peña of State Budget Solutions in her new report Throwing Money at Education Isn't Working. The provocative title says it all and the analysis is there to back it up. From Arkansas (high spending, split performance) to Texas (high spending, low performance), and from Nevada (average spending, low performance) to Vermont (high spending, high performance) the report notes that higher levels of funding do not necessarily ensure better outcomes for students.

We can of course always question the methodology. While the ACT test is administered in all 50 states, only 27 states test more than 50 percent of high school graduates. So is it fair to compare states like Pennsylvania, where only 18 percent of high school grads take the ACT (most take the SAT) to states like Ohio where 71 percent of high school grads take the ACT? That’s not exactly an apples to apples comparison of student performance across the nation.  The same is true for graduation rates, the other academic performance indicator the author uses. The author herself concedes that comparing graduation rates is very difficult from state to state despite efforts within NCLB reforms to unify that reporting nationwide.

However, when the author looks deeper into specific states and spending versus achievement, many of these smaller objections fall away and illustrate the title in clear relief: More money does not equal more achievement. The report goes on to offer several suggestions for ways in which money can be made to matter more – through better allocations, avoiding waste and fraud, ending all performance-based monetary rewards, and embracing “doing more with less” models like charter schools.

SOURCE: Kristen De Pena, Throwing Money at Education Isn’t Working (State Budget Solutions, September 2012).

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