BUT, school spending in Kentucky doesn’t correlate to better academic performance
Some of the more radical public school supporters in Kentucky are complaining on social media – again – about the state’s relatively low spending per pupil compared to the rest of the nation. This time, they point to a recent article from Education Week with a map that color codes education spending in each school district across the country. Districts shaded in red and orange spend below the national average while those coded in shades of green spend above the norm. Kentucky, of course, is heavily shaded in orange and red.
But, there is a dirty little secret those spend-more-on-education-even-if-we-can’t-afford-it social media folks aren’t telling you – there is no correlation between higher education spending and better school performance.
And, Kentucky’s financial and testing data for the very same year cited by EdWeek and NPR – 2013 – proves that.
The PDF table I created, the Correlation for Spending and Math and Reading P Rates in 2013, shows total per pupil expenditures in each Kentucky school district in 2013. The table also shows the average proficiency rate in math and reading combined for each district in 2013 KPREP testing. I calculated that overall average for each district from the simple average of each district’s elementary, middle and high school math and reading scores. For districts without high schools, the average only was computed across elementary and middle school results.
I then ran a standard statistical calculation called a “correlation” to determine the relationship between those district spending amounts and their combined math and reading proficiency rates.
That correlation was -0.070, which is about as close as it gets to no correlation what so ever.
So, in Kentucky at least, spending more, or less, in 2013 didn’t have any relationship with better school performance.
This means simply throwing more money at education isn’t going to get us what we really want, which is much better performance for our students.
It would be MUCH better if our educators looked at those districts which are getting above average results with modest amounts of funding to try and figure out how to do the job more economically, not more expensively.
The Kentucky combined math and reading proficiency rates across all school levels (elementary, middle and high school) was calculated by the author from the individual school level combined math and reading proficiency rates for each district in the 2012-13 Kentucky School Report Cards “Data Sets” section for “Delivery Targets – Proficiency/Gap.” This data was sorted to extract the “All Student” Actual Scores for each district at each school level.
Per Pupil expenditures came from the Kentucky Department of Education’s Revenue and Expenditure Report for Fiscal Year 2013. That report can be accessed from this link.