Real Info. Re: NJ and Abbott Districts

Here’s a link to a solid, recent dissertation out of the University of Michigan regarding New Jersey’s Abbott School districts and the effects of Abbott litigation on overall outcomes and outcome gaps.

Here are some highlights quoted from the Intro of the dissertation:

The first essay is an empirical analysis of the e ffects of the Abbott school finance reform on educational expenditures in New Jersey. This reform dramatically increased the funding available to poor, urban schools with the goal of improving achievement in those districts. My analysis suggests that districts directed the added resources largely to instructional personnel. They hired additional teachers and support sta ff.

The second essay asks the obvious next question: Did this increase in funding and spending improve the achievement of students in the a ffected school districts? I focus primarily on the statewide 11th grade assessment that is the only test that spans the policy change. I find that the policy improves test scores for minority students in the aff ected districts by one- fifth to one-quarter of a standard deviation.

Resch’s third essay (following the common 3 essay structure of econ dissertations) is on higher education.

Resch’s analysis is not entirely uncritical of Abbott reforms. Resch expresses concerns that emphasis in later rounds of Abbott on early grades reforms may have diverted resources to early grades education at the expense of upper grades (where early gains had been shown – see above). Resch also questions whether the approach to financing Abbott’s was sustainable, but notes that SFRA introduces significant structural changes to school funding in NJ (I could go on about this part, but not now). Resch is most critical of the state’s own lack of efforts to generate and maintain data useful for evaluating the effects of reforms – either prior Abbott reforms or SFRA.

In any case, if you happen to be trying to decide whether to spend an hour or two with a sound analysis of actual data treated with reasonable rigor, or whether to go see the Cartel Movie filled with misguided and intellectually sloppy assumptions, misleading if not outright fabricated numbers, I would recommend the econ dissertation. Yeah… it’s not as sexy – doesn’t have the slick production – and won’t be in a theater near you. But you can just click and download above, and actually get some decent real numbers and analyses. Cheers.

If you do read my previous posts regarding the Cartel, please see all 3, along with the original materials that prompted me to post (

Post 1:

Post 2:

Post 3:

Note also that if you disagree with my framing of the film’s objectives, please see the “crisis” page here, where the movie is framed largely as I have framed it.

Published by schoolfinance101

Bruce Baker is an Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. From 1997 to 2008 he was a professor at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS. He is lead author with Preston Green (Penn State University) and Craig Richards (Teachers College, Columbia University) of Financing Education Systems, a graduate level textbook on school finance policy published by Merrill/Prentice-Hall. Professor Baker has written a multitude of peer reviewed research articles on state school finance policy, teacher labor markets, school leadership labor markets and higher education finance and policy. His recent work has focused on measuring cost variations associated with schooling contexts and student population characteristics, including ways to better design state school finance policies and local district allocation formulas (including Weighted Student Funding) for better meeting the needs of students. Baker, along with Preston Green of Penn State University are co-authors of the chapter on Conceptions of Equity in the recently released Handbook of Research Education Finance and Policy, and co-authors of the chapter on the Politics of Education Finance in the Handbook of Education Politics and Policy and co-authors of the chapter on School Finance in the Handbook of Education Policy of the American Educational Research Association. Professor Baker has also consulted for state legislatures, boards of education and other organizations on education policy and school finance issues and has testified in state school finance litigation in Kansas, Missouri and Arizona. He is a member of the Think Tank Review Panel, a group of academic researchers who conduct technical reviews of publicly released think tank reports on education policy issues.

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