For Immediate Release:
Thursday, July 25, 2002
Contact: Frank Conte
Director, Communications & IS
BOSTON - JULY 25. A new study by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University finds that the upward surge in 2001 MCAS test scores had little to do with state funding of the Education Reform Act. This funding, which has risen from about $1.3 billion in 1993 to more than $3 billion currently, has, in fact, generally detracted from the states efforts to improve student test scores.
Using its Education Assessment Model, BHI examined the effects of increased spending on MCAS test scores, separated by grade (4th, 8th or 10th), by subject (English and Math) and according to a school districts past performance. Specifically, BHI found that, for the biggest budget item, expenditures on teachers:
-Spending to raise teachers salaries worsened student
performance in 13 of 18 instances, had no effect in four and improved performance
- Spending to hire new teachers showed similar results. Smaller classes worsened performance in 10 instances and had no effect in the remaining eight.
BHIs analysis of the effects of new spending on
school management and on non-instructional items and activities showed mixed
results. Changes in test scores, the study finds, are explained mainly by the
approaching graduation requirement, by the efforts of individual districts and
by socioeconomic factors.
The study suggests that schools are raising teachers
salaries without commensurately raising teaching standards and that smaller
classes may not contribute to, and may even detract from, teachers efforts
to prepare students for the MCAS test.
This is a stinging indictment of education reform,
said David G. Tuerck, Executive Director. The legislature is raising taxes
to feed billions of dollars into our schools without asking if those new dollars
are bringing results. Its time that someone start asking what the taxpayers
are getting for their money.
The study finds two areas in which policy makers can
influence outcomes. The first relates to choice. By expanding opportunities
for students to opt out of the public school system, policymakers can put pressure
on the public schools to improve performance. By creating an environment that
discourages dropping out, schools can improve the performance of 10th graders.
The second area has to do with the allocation of education
dollars between policy options. While the studys results are decidedly
negative for most policy variables, one opportunity to improve results presents
itself: Schools that have done well on past tests would benefit by increasing
expenditures on school principals and by reducing expenditures in other areas
(teachers salaries, non-instructional spending and faculty size).
Accountability stands out, however, as the one area of
education reform that has yielded the best results, as measured by performance
on the MCAS test. Starting next year, public high school seniors must pass the
test in order to graduate. Said Tuerck: The lesson of our study for the
MCAS test is that you can get better scores without new spending. Just tell
students that they wont graduate if they dont pass.
The study, Getting Less for More: Lessons in Massachusetts Education Reform, was authored by Sanjiv Jaggia, David G. Tuerck and Tija Kurian. The study is available on the BHI website: http://www.beaconhill.org.
Format revised on