The 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test, a two hour exam administered to about half a million 14 and 15 year-olds in 65 countries, ranked Americans 26th in math, 17th in reading and 21st in science (OECD, 2014b). The United States stood below average in math and close to average in reading and science. Although United States PISA scores were average to below, the nation invested 7.3% of GDP on education—compared to the 6.3% average of the other nations tested (OECD, 2014a). The exam sponsor observed that socioeconomic background accounted for about 15% of the performance variation of American students, and that disadvantaged students exhibited less engagement, drive and motivation. Despite a significant financial commitment to public education, American schools deliver lackluster performance that must be improved.
In February 2013, a Texas court decided that the state’s school finance system failed to provide adequate funding, failed to distribute funds equitably, and denied districts meaningful discretion to set tax rates. In response, Texas lawmakers voted to restore $3.4 million to schools and modified the state’s school accountability system reducing the number of state assessments required for graduation. The trial reopened in January 2014, to consider the impact of legislative changes (Smith, 2014). The court’s final decision was that, in spite of the legislature’s effort to restore lost revenue, the current system imposes an unconstitutional state property tax and is constitutionally inadequate, unsuitable, and inefficient (Koppel, 2014). Texas continues to search for the most effective way to fund public education.
A recent study used current Texas Education Agency (TEA) data to evaluate the relationship between school funding and academic achievement, attempting to isolate this relationship from the distorting influences of demographic indicators that have been shown to impact student performance (Lamers, 2014). Two TEA high school Campus Comparison Groups with greatly different demographics were analyzed. The results were mixed. A clear relationship between funding and achievement was not evident, but the result—particularly for the combination of the two comparison groups—suggests that factors other than funding have a greater influence on student outcomes than funding. This is consistent with the results of other studies on this topic (Branca, 2009; Bryant, 2010; Franklin, 2012; Niven, 2012; Rascoe, 2008; Zamarripa, 2009).
To date it has not been clearly established how much money would be required to ensure all students are college-ready or career-ready at high school graduation. Several studies suggest that internal factors, such as school culture and instructional strategies, have the greatest potential to improve student academic performance (Black & Wiliam, 1998; Marzano, 2010; Popham, 2006; Wormeli, 2006). Identifying programs and instructional strategies that can transform a school’s culture may hold the key to providing all students a quality education as measured by student outcomes.
Black, P., Wiliam, D. (1998). Inside the black box. Phi Delta Kappan, 80(2), 139.
Branca, A. B. (2009). Education finance trends in a no child left behind America: Implications of student performance on changed in pre-pupil spending. (Graduate Dissertation). Georgetown University, Washington DC: Georgetown University.
Bryant, A. C. (2010). Funding equity in Oklahoma public schools and its impact on student academic achievement on algebra I end of instruction tests. (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. (UMI No. 3445873)
Franklin, T. (2012). Do resources matter? An analysis of instructional spending on college readiness indicators in Texas. (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. (UMI No. 3548520)
Koppel, N. (2014). Texas judge rules state is underfunding public schools. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/articles/judge-rules-texas-is-failing-to-properly-fund-public-schools
Lamers, J. P. (2014). The impact of instructional spending on college readiness. (Doctoral Dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses. . (UMI No. 3669428).
Marzano, R. J., (2010). Art & science of teaching/what teachers gain from deliberative practice. Educational Leadership. 68(4). 82-85.
Niven, J. S. (2012). The relationship of the Texas school foundation program equity to student performance and socioeconomic status. (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. (UMI No. 3550578)
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2014a). Country note: Education at a glance 2013: United States. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/edu/educationataglance2013-countrynotesandkeyfacttables.htm
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2014b). Country note: Programme for international student assessment (PISA) results from PISA 2012 United States, key findings. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/pisa/keyfindings/pisa-2012-results.htm
Popham, W. (2006). Assessment for educational leaders. Boston, MA: Pearson.
Rascoe, C. (2008). An evaluation of direct instructional per pupil expenditures and the resulting TAKS score performance. (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. (UMI No. 3350771)
Smith, M. (2014). Judge in Texas school finance case faces recusal hearing. The Texas Tribune. Retrieved from http://www.texastribune.org/2014/06/05/judge-school-finance-case-faces-recusal-hearing/
Wormeli, R. (2006). Accountability: Teaching through assessment and feedback, not grading. American Secondary Education, 34, 3, 14-27.
Zamarripa, L. (2009). Factors affecting student achievement in mathematics in select Texas high schools. (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. (UMI No. 3400331)