Thursday, May 20, 2004
Frank Conte, Communications,
finds that more state money, smaller classes have failed to improve
A new study by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University
shows that new spending undertaken by the state under the aegis of the
1993 Education Reform Act has not improved the performance of public
the Act, the state has increased education spending by $2 billion a
year, permitting schools to raise teachers salaries and reduce
class size. Yet more money, higher salaries and smaller classes have
not improved performance on the states Massachusetts Comprehensive
Assessment System (MCAS) tests. The finding comes at a time when students
are taking their 2004 MCAS tests and the state is under a new court
order to increase funding of poorer districts.
Sanjiv Jaggia and Vidisha Vachharajani wrote the study, Money for Nothing:
The Failures of Education Reform in Massachusetts for the Beacon Hill
Institute, where both serve as economists. Jaggia is also Professor
of Economics at Suffolk University. The findings were obtained by applying
the Beacon Hill Institute Education Assessment Model (BEAM) to 2003
MCAS scores and to a number of policy and socioeconomic variables that
explain performance on the MCAS.
which was developed by Jaggia, is a value-added model that
focuses on how changes in explanatory variables affect contemporaneous
test scores at the school district level. The model was estimated for
English and Mathematics tests administered for grades 4, 8 and 10.
Increases in per-pupil expenditures have, in most instances,
had no effect on performance and in one instance (10th grade English)
Decreases in the student-teacher ratio (and, therefore, in class
size) have, in most instances, worsened performance and in no instance
Increases in teachers salaries have not, in any instance,
improved performance (and, in two instances, worsened performance).
Increases in per-pupil non-instructional expenditures have
not, in any instance, improved performance.
Factors that do explain performance are property values (as measured
by the Equalized Valuation Index), participation in the free/reduced
price lunch program (a measure of poverty) and past test scores.
Commenting on the study, David G. Tuerck, Executive Director of the
Beacon Hill Institute, observed that the state legislature and
now the state judiciary have been spending more and more on education
with a blind eye to ineffectiveness of new spending on school performance.
Said Tuerck: This study, like our earlier studies, shows that
more money and smaller classes are not helping kids learn. Until the
state and the courts absorb this lesson, education reform will amount
to nothing more than a $2-billion-a-year annual drain on the state budget.
The study further shows how the state can improve school performance
by using BEAM to identify schools that do a particularly good
or particularly bad job of teaching children, given the socioeconomic
circumstances that those children bring to the classroom. The study
shows how three districts, Hadley, Eastham and Mansfield are beating
the odds in terms of their success in getting children to learn.
The study provides a ranking of all districts in terms of their success
(or failure) in getting students to perform well on the MCAS.