Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Twenty-Five Years of Data on Educational Funding and Student Achievement: What Does It Mean?

Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Twenty-Five Years of Data on Educational Funding and Student Achievement: What Does It Mean?

Article excerpt

Research conducted over the past 25 years on the relationship between the funding of education and student achievement is analyzed and synthesized. Most of this research has been conducted by economists using production functions (a form of linear regression) and is published in econometric journals. Associated interpretations are based on the sign of the regression coefficients ignoring the magnitude of the effect and possible errors due to multicolinearity. In the majority of studies, the conclusion reached is that there is little relationship between disparity and funding. The present study examines this literature critically and brings in results from several recent studies performed in response to some of the court cases on funding equity. Variables such as the unit of analysis and the measurement metric are considered based on their demonstrated impact on results. Specific flaws are identified in many of the econometric studies, and questionable interpretations are pointed out. The information is used to suggest guidelines for future research on this topic.

Until the appearance of Equity of Educational Opportunity in 1966 (Coleman, Campbell, Hobson, McPartland, Mood, Weinfeld, & York), commonly referred to as the Coleman Report, no one really questioned the relationship between expenditures for education and student achievement. Since that time, however, the question has been a source of intense study by both educators and economists. The primary research on this topic was synthesized and interpreted by Hanushek in 1989. To the chagrin and surprise of many educators, his conclusion was that "detailed research spanning two decades and observing performance in many educational settings provides strong and consistent evidence that expenditures are not systematically related to student achievement" (p. 49). Because this conclusion contradicted long-held assumptions, numerous studies were undertaken to investigate the validity of this conclusion. The purpose of this study is to review the history of the debate, describe its current status, and to recommend a future direction.

There was little or no research conducted on the relationship between expenditures for education and student achievement before the publication of the Coleman Report (Coleman et al., 1966) simply because no one questioned the existence of that relationship. The primary finding of this landmark study was that school inputs other than student body composition explained virtually none of the variance in school achievement (Brookover, 1982). This finding is often cited as a justification for desegregation (e.g., Brookover, 1982), but, at the same time, it led many to conclude that schools make very little difference in student achievement (Jencks, Smith, Acland, Bane, Cohen, Gintis, Heyns, & Michelson, 1972). This conclusion formed the basis of the argument for those who concluded that money is not the answer to educational problems. Although the publication of the Coleman Report in 1966 prompted a flurry of research, by 1982 the basic findings still had not been disproved (Brookover, 1982). At first, the research community targeted the report itself and its methodology. In 1972, Mosteller and Moynihan provided a definitive re-analysis of the data from the Coleman Report and reported essentially the same conclusions. At that point, educators appear to have lost interest and the mantel was passed to economists by default. This resulted in the research adopting econometric models with an emphasis on production functions (Boardman, Davis, & Sanday, 1977). From 1972 through 1989, most research on this relationship was conducted by economists and appeared in econometric journals. Apparently, little attention was paid to this research by educators since research on this issue could not be found in education-related journals.

Beginning in the late 1980s, the relationship between funding and student achievement again became important to educators, this time due to the initiation of lawsuits against states related to the funding of education. …

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