Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Comparing Apples and Studebakers


In the previous five blog posts, we discussed Peer States, Aspiration States, and High Impact States. We also looked at funding formula components and talked about funding fairness.  Let’s review what we found.


Peer States


We compared each state to Kansas on 10 measures; including those related to student demographics and population characteristics.  We defined similar to Kansas as within plus or minus one half a standard deviation of Kansas’s value.  We identified peer states as those states that were similar to Kansas on at least 6 of the 10 measures.  


Here are the Peer States, from most similar to least:
  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • Illinois
  • Michigan
  • Nebraska
  • Pennsylvania
  • Wisconsin


We concluded the following:
  • 5/7 peer states, or 70% spend more per pupil than Kansas.
  • 7/7 peer states, or 100% have lower student outcomes than Kansas on at least 8/14 outcome measures.
  • Kansas has fewer students per district, school, and staff than the majority of its peers.
  • Most of Kansas’ neighbor states are not on the list of peer states.  


Aspiration States


We compared each state to Kansas on 14 measures; including those related to student attainment and student achievement.  We defined aspiration states as those states that outperformed Kansas on at least 8 of these 14 measures.


Here are the Aspiration States, from those that outperform Kansas on the most measures to those that outperform Kansas on the fewest:
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • Massachusetts
  • Vermont
  • Minnesota


We concluded the following:
  • Only five states outperform Kansas on a majority of student outcome measures.
  • All five Aspiration States spend more per pupil than Kansas.
  • Approximately half of the states had more students per district, school, and staff.
  • No aspiration state is also a peer state.


Higher Impact States


We compared each state to Kansas on 14 measures, including those related to student attainment and student achievement, while controlling for 16 measures, including those related to student demographics and population characteristics.  We defined higher impact states as those states that would outperform Kansas on at least 8 of 14 outcome measures if all states had the same student demographics and population characteristics.


Here are the higher impact states, from those that outperform Kansas on the most measures to those that outperform Kansas on the fewest:
  • Texas
  • Kentucky
  • Arkansas
  • Maryland


We concluded the following:
  • Only four states outperform Kansas on a majority of student outcome measures when controlling for student demographics and population characteristics.
  • None of the higher impact states outperform Kansas on more than 3/14 outcome measures without controlling for student demographics and population characteristics.
  • None of the high impact states were also identified as peer or aspiration states.


So What?


The question remains; how can we use this information?  We have created three different ways of comparing Kansas to other states, and each comparison is designed to answer different kinds of questions.  


  • By looking at our peer states, we can ask how states with similar student populations compare with Kansas on funding, organization size, student attainment, and student achievement.  
  • By looking at our aspiration states, we can ask how states that outperform Kansas on student attainment and student achievement compare on funding, organization size, student demographics, and population characteristics.
  • Using the higher impact states, we can look to states that  achieve better student outcomes than expected when holding school funding, student demographics, and population characteristics constant (to a higher degree than Kansas does) to see if there are aspects of their systems that would benefit Kansas.  


Here is the full list of comparison states:
  • Arkansas - High Impact
  • Illinois - Peer
  • Kentucky - High Impact
  • Maryland - High Impact
  • Massachusetts - Aspiration
  • Michigan - Peer
  • Minnesota - Aspiration
  • Nebraska - Peer
  • New Hampshire - Aspiration
  • New Jersey - Aspiration
  • Oregon - Peer
  • Pennsylvania - Peer
  • Texas - High Impact
  • Vermont - Aspiration
  • Washington - Peer
  • Wisconsin - Peer


As we move into discussions on school finance formulas, each type of comparison can be useful.  We can look to our peers to see how states with similar students fund their education system.  We can look to our aspiration states to see if we can find a connection between student success, funding, and particular aspects of school finance formulas.  We can look to the high impact states to see if there might be components to their school finance formula that help them perform above expectations to a higher degree than Kansas.  


We’ve identified school funding components and can compare them between states to see if there is some indication that schools with certain components addressed in certain ways have better student outcomes, and we’ve looked at some national fairness metrics and can see if there are areas where Kansas could improve compared to these other states.  All of this together should at least enable us to come up with some ideas for sharing and discussion as we look to defining a new funding formula and ensuring adequate and equitable funding for all Kansas schools.

Discussions such as these are complex, and there is rarely a single, clear, best approach.  Hopefully coming at the topic from multiple angles such as what we’ve described above will better enable us to come up with some ideas about what Kansas needs in order to improve student outcomes and to ensure the money we are spending is being used as effectively and efficiently as possible.  

To examine the data more closely, use the following links:

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