Taxes & Government Spending, Education

Analyzing New Education Performance Index Results

  • Jan 07, 2014

The Connecticut Department of Education last month released a new performance index for each school and district in Connecticut.  The new index synthesize scores across subjects and grade levels on the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) and Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) to generate a single School Performance Index (SPI) and District Performance Index (DPI) for each test.

Most of the schools with the lowest SPIs are concentrated in the state’s 30 alliance districts – traditionally underperforming and generally low-income districts targeted by the state for improvement as part of the 2012 education reform bill.

Unfortunately, as the Connecticut Council on Education Reform reported last month, the district-level data shows most Alliance Districts failing to make year-over-year improvement in scores.  This mirrors the results of the 2013 National Association of Educational Progress (NAEP) results, which show Connecticut making little progress from 2011-2013 in low-income and minority student achievement.

While underperforming schools are concentrated in low-income districts, this is not because those districts spend less per student on public education.  As these charts show, alliance districts are spread fairly evenly across the distribution of district spending per students – eleven of the thirty alliance districts spend more per student than the state average of $14,961.  Additionally, there is little correlation between spending per student and District Performance Index scores more generally.

What It Means For You: Improving educational achievement in low-income districts will require more than simply spending more, the objective of an ongoing lawsuit against the state.  Rather, it will require spending money differently.

For instance, a recent CPI policy paper proposed improving equity and accountability in school financing by adopting a "money follows the child" funding system that allocates a certain amount of money for the education of each student and transfers that money to whatever public school the student attends. The allotted amount per student would be based on a weighted needs-based formula, which allocates more money for students whose education is more costly, such as those in poverty, English Language Learners, and special education students.  More information on this proposal and the CPI's education policy work is available here.

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