Thursday, February 23, 2017

Poverty and Student Outcomes: A Review of KASB’s Work

Introduction

This report highlights the research and analysis KASB has done over the past several years related to the connection between student poverty and student achievement and attainment. 

At-Risk Funding in Kansas:  Free Lunch Status and At-Risk Status

In August of 2014, KASB published a report comparing eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch status through the National School Lunch Program to household income and poverty levels.  The report concluded:
1.       The increase in Kansas students on free or reduced-price meals has generally followed changes in the number of low income students as measured by poverty rates.
2.       Changes in the percent of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch in Kansas closely follow national trends, with Kansas consistently showing lower percentages of students eligible for free lunch and higher percentages of students eligible for reduced-price lunch.
3.       Students on free and reduced-price meals have increased slightly more than indicated by the poverty rate in recent years following new federal regulations requiring “direct certification” of some students, regardless of whether or not parents apply for meals.
4.       The percentage of both students in poverty and students on free and reduced-price meals in Kansas has tracked closely with the national average and with states most similar to Kansas.
5.       There is a very strong correlation between student poverty and the percentage of students on free or reduced-price meals.  Kansas is exactly where it would be predicted to be.
6.       Private schools in Kansas have also seen a significant increase in students qualifying for free and reduced-price meals.
7.       Increases in the percentage of Hispanic students, who have higher rates of eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch than other race/ethnic groups, has increased the percent of eligible students for free or reduced-price lunch in Kansas.
8.       The median individual income in Kansas falls below the income level for free lunch eligibility for a family of four, and the median household income is only slightly above it.
9.       Kansas, over the last 15 years, substantially increased the amount of the weighting factor in the school finance formula used to determine funding for at-risk students.  The change primarily occurred following a Kansas Legislative Post Audit cost study, and reflects other studies.
10.   The change in the number of free lunch students does not appear to have been significantly affected by the change in the at-risk weightings, considering all other factors noted.

Poverty in Kansas – How Are We Doing?

KASB Research staff published a blog post in September of 2014 looking at poverty and household income rates in Kansas.  The post indicated that the number of school-aged children in poverty is increasing in Kansas, and that household incomes (adjusted for inflation) have been decreasing since 2007. 

Educational Funding and Student Outcomes: The Relationship as Evidenced by State-Level Data – Part 1

In September of 2014, KASB released a report focused on the relationship between education spending and student outcomes.  The report had three main implications:
1.       Educational spending is a strong predictor of student achievement.
2.       The amount of spending is more important than the percent spent on “instruction.”
3.       Kansas spends below the national average but has outcomes well above the national average.

Educational Funding and Student Outcomes:  The Relationship as Evidenced by State-Level Data – Part 2

One of the main criticisms of the Educational Funding Part I report is that it did not take into consideration other factors impacting student outcomes.  In response, in January of 2015 KASB published Part 2 of the report that considered a wide range of factors, both internal and external to the school system itself.  The report’s main conclusions were:
1.       When other factors are taken into consideration, school funding as a predictor of educational outcomes is identified as a statistically significant predictor in half of the analyses conducted.
2.       The actual dollar amounts are stronger predictors than are the percentages allocated to costs classified as “instruction.”
3.       The predictive ability of school spending amounts and percentages varies depending on the outcome measures being examined and the other factors included in the regression models.
4.       Most of the factors that were significant predictors of student outcomes more often than education spending are those that are beyond the immediate control of state education systems.
5.       Actual Kansas student outcomes are very close to those predicted by the factors included in this study, suggesting the Kansas K-12 education system performs at a level of efficiency comparable to the rest of the country.
Point #4 above brought to light the fact that the following factors were stronger predictors of student outcomes than those things that could be controlled within the school system:
·         Adult educational attainment
·         Student race/ethnicity
·         Poverty
·         Income
·         Population Density
Two of the list above are direct measures of income or poverty, and the other three are closely correlated with these measures of poverty.  So, in general the study supports the idea that students from households and neighborhoods with higher poverty have lower student outcomes than those from more affluent household and neighborhoods.
The study indicates that the percent of students eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program has the strongest correlations with student outcomes of any factor studied.  The second strongest correlations were between the percent of children at 50%, 100%, 150%, 200%, and 250% of poverty and student outcomes. 
Student race/ethnicity is a strong predictor of student success.  Whether a student is white or nonwhite was a stronger predictor than black or nonblack, Hispanic or non-Hispanic, and so forth.  White students in general had better student outcomes than nonwhite students. 
Adult education attainment had a strong correlation with student success.  Higher adult education levels in a state were associated with better student outcomes.  Research also shows that higher adult education levels are associated with lower poverty and higher income.
Finally, population density was a moderate predictor of student success, with more densely populated states showing more student success.  Research will show that more densely populated states tend to have higher overall education levels, lower poverty, and higher income.

Comparing Kansas: State-Level Data and its Implications

In August of 2015, KASB produced its first analysis of state-level data where we identified Peer States (those states similar demographically to Kansas) and Aspiration States (those states that outperformed Kansas on a majority of student outcome measures). 
The report found that only one state was both a peer and an aspiration state.  Supporting data shows that all the aspiration states had:
·         lower percentages of children in poverty,
·         lower percentages of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch,
·         higher median household incomes,
·         higher populations per square mile, and
·         higher adult educational attainment levels.

The Race Achievement Gap

In September of 2015, KASB Research staff published a review of an NCES report entitled “School Composition and the Black-White Achievement Gap.”  The results of the study indicated that students from all race/ethnic backgrounds had lower achievement in schools with the highest black student density.  The reasons they gave for this were:
·         These schools employ less experienced teachers.
·         These schools have more low-socioeconomic status students.
·         Teachers and administrators at these schools may have lower expectations for students.

KIDS Count Data shows Kansas trends similar to Nation

In October of 2015, KASB Research staff published a review of the 2015 KIDS Count Data Book.  Key findings included:
·         The percent of children in poverty has increased from 18 percent in 2008 to 22 percent in 2013 nationally, and from 15 percent to 19 percent in Kansas.
·         The percent of children whose parents lack secure employment increased from 27 percent in 2008 to 31 percent in 2013 nationally, and from 22 percent to 24 percent in Kansas.
·         The percent of children living in high poverty areas increased from 11 percent in 2006-10 to 14 percent in 2009-13 nationally, and from 6 percent to 9 percent in Kansas. 
·         The percent of fourth graders not proficient in reading decreased from 68 percent in 2007 to 66 percent in 2013 nationally, and from 64 percent to 62 percent in Kansas.
·         The percent of high school students not graduating on time decreased from 25 percent in 2007-08 to 19 percent in 2011-12 nationally, and from 21 percent to 11 percent in Kansas. 
·         The percent of high school students not graduating on time decreased from 25 percent in 2007-08 to 19 percent in 2011-12 nationally, and from 21 percent to 11 percent in Kansas. 
·         The percent of teens not in school and not working was constant at 8 percent between 2008 and 2013 nationally, but increased from 5 percent to 6 percent in Kansas.
·         The percent of eighth graders not proficient in math decreased from 69 percent in 2007 to 66 percent in 2013 nationally, but remained constant at 60 percent in Kansas.
·         The percent of children in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma decreased from 16 percent in 2008 to 14 percent in 2013 nationally, but increased from 11 percent to 12 percent in Kansas.
These results show that despite the increase in poverty, improvements in student outcomes can occur.

Comparing Kansas: The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

In November of 2015, KASB published an analysis of NAEP results for Kansas compared to the rest of the nation.  The report clearly indicates that there is an achievement gap between students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch and those that are not, both in Kansas and nationally.  The report concludes:
1.       The achievement gap between students eligible for free or reduced-­price lunch and those who are not eligible has been fairly level in terms of scores, has shown a decline in terms of students performing at basic or above, and has shown an increase in terms of percent at proficient or above for most comparison groups.
2.       Kansas’ achievement gap has historically been lower than many states’ gaps, but since 2011 has become much more in line with that of other states.
3.       Two of the five external factors impacting student outcomes are poverty and income, and the other three (student race, population density, and adult educational attainment) are highly correlated to poverty measures.

Kansas Educational Achievement Report Card 2015

In January of 2016, KASB produced a Report Card that indicated Kansas’ rank on a variety of education related measures compared to the rest of the country.  Among other findings, the report indicated that Kansas was in the top 10 in overall achievement, and that all of the other top 10 states had lower percentages of students on free or reduced meals, children at or below 100 percent of the poverty rate, and children at or below 250 percent of the poverty rate. 

Comparing Kansas: Student Attainment, Student Achievement, and School Spending

In May of 2016, KASB produced an update to the state comparison analysis.  This time there were seven aspiration states, and four different peer groups were identified.  Supporting data shows that:
·         Only one aspiration state had a higher percent of children at 100% poverty.
·         All aspiration states had lower percentages of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.
·         Only one aspiration state had a lower median household income.
·         Two aspiration states had a lower percent of adults who were high school graduates, two had a lower percent of adults with bachelor’s degrees, and three had a lower percent of adults with graduate degrees.
·         Only one aspiration state had fewer people per mile.

State Education Report Card – 2016 Update

In August of 2016, KASB released the 2016 update to the State Education Report Card.  This time, there were nine aspiration states.  Supporting data shows that:
·         Only one aspiration state had a higher percent of children at 100% poverty.
·         Only one aspiration state had a higher percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.
·         All aspiration states had higher median household incomes.
·         Four aspiration states had a lower percent of adults with high school diplomas, three had a lower percent of adults with bachelor’s degrees, and three had a lower percent of adults with graduate degrees.
·         Only one aspiration state had a higher percent of adults with income below the poverty level in the past 12 months.
·         Two aspiration states had fewer people per square mile.

KSDE State Assessment Data Summary and Analysis Tool

In December of 2016, KASB Research staff posted a blog post summarizing the results of the 2016 Kansas State Assessments.  In it, they concluded:
·         There is a 22 percent gap between students performing at Level One for both ELA and Math, and a 5 or 6 percent gap between students performing at Level Two for both groups based on their free or reduced-price lunch status.
·         There is a 17 percent gap for ELA and a 15 percent gap for Math on Level Three between the two groups, and an 11 or 12 percent gap on Level Four.
·         This suggests that students from more affluent families perform notably better than their less economically advantaged peers.

Conclusions

Based on the reports cited in this article, the following conclusions can be drawn:
1.       The percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, which is commonly used as a proxy measure for student socioeconomic stats, is closely tied to other income/poverty measures such as median household income, percent of children at poverty, adult poverty, and so forth.
2.       Student poverty is an increasing issue in Kansas.
3.       The external measures which are the most closely tied to student outcomes are either direct measures of income/poverty or measures that are highly correlated to income and poverty, such as student race/ethnicity, adult educational attainment, and population density.
4.       States that outperform Kansas in general have lower poverty, higher income, higher educational attainment, and more population per square mile.
5.       There is a clear achievement gap between students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch and students who are not eligible.
Taken all together, it seems safe to say that students from lower income households, neighborhoods, schools, districts, or states are less likely to succeed than their peers in higher income households, neighborhoods, schools, districts, or states, and further that Kansas needs to develop strategies to effectively address the needs of these lower income students.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Disengaged Students Series by The Edvocate

In January, Matthew Lynch began a 20 part series called "Disengaged Students."  Here is his description of the series:
In this 20-part series, I explore the root causes and effects of academic disengagement in K-12 learners and explore the factors driving American society ever closer to being a nation that lacks intellectualism, or the pursuit of knowledge for knowledge’s sake.
The first 10 installments of the series are available.  Below are links to each installment:
You can find the entire series here:  http://www.theedadvocate.org/tag/disengaged-students-series/ 

Public School Talking Points

On February 10th, Brian Cleary published an article on The Edvocate entitled "A Reflection on the Success of Public Schools."  In it, he shared several positive facts about the public school system in the United States that I felt were worth re-posting here.

These are Brian's points:

  • The literacy rate in the US is 99% for those over the age of 15.
  • Our dropout rate has dropped consistently for the last 40 years.
  • More students than ever before (22 million, or 69%) will go on to some kind of secondary degree this year.
  • Public School graduates annually make up between 55% and 70% of the matriculating freshmen as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, Brown, and Cornell.
  • 9 of the last 13 Presidents have gone through the Public School system.
  • More than a third of 338 Nobel Prizes won by U.S. citizens have been brought home by public school graduates, more than any other educational system.
  • Every Chair of the Federal Reserve for the last 50 years started out as a public school student,
  • Six of our Supreme Court Justice are the products of public education.

You can read Brian's article here.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card, Sixth Edition

This month, Bruce Baker and colleagues released the sixth edition of "Is School Funding Fair?  A National Report Card" through the Education Law Center and Rutgers Graduate School of Education.   
The Report Card uses nationally available data to rate and/or grade each state on four measures.  Below is a description of each and information on how Kansas performed this year. 

Funding Level 
This measures the overall level of state and local revenue provided to school districts, and compares each state’s average per‐pupil revenue with that of other states. To recognize the variety of interstate differences, each state’s revenue level is adjusted to reflect differences in regional wages, poverty, economies of scale, and population density. 

Kansas ranked 23rd in Funding Level with $9,749 average per pupil revenue.  As noted above, first place went to New York with $16,165 per pupil, and 49th place went to Idaho with $5,838 per pupil. 

Last year, Kansas ranked 22nd 

Funding Distribution 
This measures the distribution of funding across local districts within a state, relative to student poverty. The measure shows whether a state provides more or less funding to schools based on their poverty concentration, using simulations ranging from 0 percent to 30 percent child poverty. 

Kansas got a grade of "C" and ranked 22nd in Funding Distribution, with students in high poverty schools receiving 98 percent of the funding that students in low poverty schools receive ($9,694 and $9,858 respectively).  Delaware got 1st place, with students in high poverty schools receiving 144 percent of what students in low poverty schools receive, and Nevada got 50th place, with students in high poverty schools receiving 59 percent of what students in low poverty schools receive. 

Last year, Kansas also got a “C” grade and ranked 29th, but still had high poverty school students receiving 98 percent of the funding that students in low poverty schools received.  This suggests that the change in Kansas’s rank is due to other states becoming less equitable in their distribution, rather than Kansas becoming more equitable.   

Effort 
This measures differences in state spending for education relative to state fiscal capacity. “Effort” is defined as the ratio of state spending to gross state product (GSP). 

Kansas got a grade of "C" and ranked 21st in Effort, with a ratio of education spending to gross state product of 0.036.  Vermont got 1st place with a ratio of 0.053 and Hawaii got 50th place with a ratio of 0.025.   

Kansas's effort index is down 4 percent from where it was in 2008.  Last year, Kansas again earned a grade of “C” and was ranked 21st 

Coverage 
This measures the proportion of school‐aged children attending the state’s public schools, as compared with those not attending the state’s public schools (primarily parochial and private schools, but also home schooled). The share of the state’s students in public schools and the median household income of those students is an important indicator of the distribution of funding relative to student poverty (especially where more affluent households simply opt out of public schooling), and the overall effort to provide fair school funding. 

Kansas ranked 33rd in Coverage, with 87 percent of school-aged children attending public school and with the median household income of those not attending public schools at 144 percent of the median household income for public school students.  Utah ranked 1st with 93 percent of children attending public schools and private school family in come at 107 percent of public school families, and DC ranked 51st with 82 percent of students attending public schools and private school family incomes at 288 percent of public school families. 
  
Last year Kansas ranked 24th and had 88 percent of school-aged children attending public school and median household income of students not attending public schools at 143 percent of that for students attending public schools.  This suggests that other states have decreased the percent of students not attending public schools and/or decreased the disparity in household incomes, since Kansas’s data for the current year is only slightly worse than last year but the rank is much lower.  

Key Findings 
According to the authors, the major findings from the report are as follows: 

  • Funding levels show large disparities, ranging from a high of $18,165 per pupil in New York, to a low of $5,838 in Idaho. 
  • Many states with low funding levels, such as California, Idaho, Nevada, North Carolina, and Texas, are also low “effort” states, that is, they invest a low percentage of their economic capacity to support their public education systems. 
  • Fourteen states, including Pennsylvania, North Dakota, New York, and Illinois, have “regressive” school funding. These states provide less funding to school districts with higher concentrations of need as measured by student poverty. 
  • Students in certain regions of the country face a “double disadvantage” because their states have low funding levels and do not increase funding for concentrated student poverty. These “flat” funding states include Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida in the Southeast, and Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico in the Southwest. 
  • Only a handful of states – Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Jersey – have “progressive” school funding. These states have sufficiently high funding levels and significantly boost funding in their high poverty districts. 
  • States with unfair school funding perform poorly on key indicators of resources essential for educational opportunity. In these states, access to early childhood education is limited; wages for teachers are not competitive with those of comparable professions; and teacher-to-pupil ratios in schools are unreasonably high. 

KASB Research Perspective 
There are a lot of different “Report Card” or “Grade Card” analyses out there related to public education, including KASB’s own “State Education Report Card.”  It is important to understand that the selection of the measures to use, the calculations, and the type of results shared is somewhat arbitrary, which is why the authors of such studies are often accused of “cherry picking” data that supports a particular conclusion.  In addition, it is often hard to find measures that are collected and reported consistently across states that would allow for meaningful comparison.   

That being said, Bruce Baker and his team have been using the same approach to their report card for several years now, and this annual report is widely accepted as a credible way to compare states in terms of education funding.  The measures used (average per-pupil revenue, percent school poverty, state education spending, gross state product, percent enrolled in public and private schools, median household income) are all data elements from credible national sources that are frequently used when discussing education at the national level.  In addition, the calculations and types of results they use (adjusting for interstate differences, calculating ratios, using both ranking and grade assignments) are common to most if not all “Report Card” analyses of this kind. 

Based on the results of this report, the following conclusions about Kansas can be drawn: 

  • Kansas is in the middle of the states when it comes to per-pupil spending, but our ranking in this area is dropping. 
  • Kansas is in the middle of the states when it comes to funding distribution, but other states may be becoming less equitable at a rate higher than Kansas. 
  • Kansas is in the middle of the states when it comes to effort, but long term trends show a decrease in this metric over time. 
  • Kansas is below average when it comes to the percent of school-aged children in public schools and the difference in wealth between public and private school students, and saw a sharp decline in standing from last year mostly due to changes in other states’ statistics.   

In other words, this report card supports the same conclusion that KASB has drawn from the research we have done – Kansas is not the worst state in terms of school funding, but there is certainly great room for improvement.  Further, data suggests that the situation in Kansas is getting worse rather than better. 

In addition to the report, the groups also made available the data sets used as part of the analysis via the School Funding Fairness Data System.  For more information, visit www.schoolfundingfairness.org.