Okay… so the media is on it. Do a Google News Search on “Education Week” and “Quality Counts” and you’ll get over 100 headlines from major and small local news outlets across the country, like:
Texas on the other hand…
And others, simply happy with improvement
Unfortunately, as I discussed yesterday, at least the finance portion of these ratings is relatively meaningless – failing to capture critically important features of state school finance systems. (See my previous post)
This failure is particularly evident in the paragraph below from the Education Week summary of their newest findings. Yes, there are huge disparities in funding across Alaska schools – because tiny remote school districts are incredibly expensive to operate, relative to scale efficient districts in the state’s larger cities and towns. And yes, there are relatively large differences in spending across New Jersey districts. But New Jersey, more than any other state in the country (along with others like Minnesota), systematically allocates greater resources to poor urban districts. Much of the difference in resources across New Jersey school districts can be predicted as a function of student need variation across districts. And so it should be.
Broadly speaking, equity indicators still show wide disparities across districts in many states. For example, our Restricted Range indicator measures the difference in per-pupil expenditures between school districts at the 95th and 5th percentiles of spending within individual states, adjusted for regional cost differences and student needs. Smaller gaps denote more equitable spending across the districts in a state. Our analysis found a $12,307 gap between those high- and low-spending districts in Alaska in the 2005-06 school year, the largest difference in the nation. New Jersey had the second-largest gap—$10,838—and West Virginia displayed the smallest gap at $1,895.