Among other surprises, this report reveals that in some states there are a surprising number of school districts where every school is a charter school. That means every single school in those districts has been freed from most of the burdensome and restrictive school regulations that many experts now believe are standing in the way of real education reform.
There are more interesting revelations in this amazing new document. One of those concerns the funding spread from the lowest to highest funded regular school districts in each state. That statistic is captured in the federal report by a figure of merit called the “Federal Range Ratio.” A small Federal Range Ratio means there is very little difference between bottom-end and top-end funded school districts in a state.
As you can see in this table, which I assembled from Table 1 in the federal report, Kentucky has the smallest Federal Range Ratio for regular school district funding of any state in the nation. In other words, KERA has done a phenomenal job of leveling funding in our schools. The difference is only about 30 percent. No other state does this job better. In over 40 states, the ratio is at least twice as large.
The fact that Kentucky’s school funding is now so uniform from district to district provides more evidence that funding alone doesn’t solve inequitable academic performance from district to district. Despite nearly equal funding across Kentucky, we still see a wide variation in test scores on both CATS and the ACT from district to district.
By the way, I’m not done with this report, so stay tuned for more.
Data details for the statistics crowd
Federal statisticians know that in most states some school districts “break the curve” when it comes to funding.
A good example in Kentucky is the Anchorage Independent School District. This very affluent school district charges extremely high local school taxes, far above what most Kentuckians can afford. In addition, the district only operates a Primary to grade 8 school system. Those factors make Anchorage’s state-leading per pupil revenue out of line with the real norms for Kentucky. Anytime a district like Anchorage is included in funding analysis, it “pulls the curve.”
Recognizing this problem, the federal analysis doesn’t look at the very top and very bottom funded districts in each state. Instead, to overcome the problem with “curve pullers,” which statisticians technically label as “outliers,” the new federal report looks at the district where the funding ranks 5 percent above the bottom funded district and at the district that ranks 5 percent below the top funded district. These are called the “5th percentile” and “95th percentile” districts in the report. Statistically speaking, this is a good and uniform approach to use when outliers like Anchorage are present.
After determining the 5th and 95th percentile district funding in each state, the federal report then compares those numbers using the somewhat cryptically titled “Federal Range Ratio.” When you actually look at this statistic, it is just a percentage-like difference between the low-end and top-end funded districts, expressed as a decimal instead of a percentage form.
Again, this is a good approach for such a figure of merit.