Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
Oftentimes, people think that if more money is spent on education, testing scores will automatically improve. In some cases, this may be true. Massachusetts has proved, though, that exorbitant spending does not necessarily correlate with a quality education.
According to State Budget Solutions (SBS), a non-profit state budget reform organization, 45 other states spent more on education as a percentage of their total spending than Massachusetts did in 2009, 2010, and 2011. However, the Commonwealth ranked number one in the nation in terms of the highest ACT average scores each of those three years.
The SBS prides itself on being a non-partisan and pro-reform organization dedicated to bolstering the contention that spending more on education at the state level does not lead to improved test scores. They described education spending as funding generated by state and local governments, as well as money received from the federal government. In their study, the SBS conducted a state-by-state assessment of education spending and also compared the average graduation rates and ACT scores per state.
“Our study clearly shows that spending money isn’t going to achieve the results that taxpayers are funding and parents are wanting,” said SPS president Bob Williams.
What I found most shocking and illustrative of this claim was the fact that Arkansas, which was in the top five in spending from 2009-2011, produced ACT scores below the national average each year. Additionally, Texas ranked first in education spending in 2010 and 2011 but was below the national average in ACT scores and in graduation rates.
With our education system in the condition that it is, many states will resort to aimlessly throwing money into the classrooms in a futile attempt to improve test scores and graduation rates. Yet, all the smartboards, paper, and markers in the world alone will not erase the red x’s on the Scantrons.
There is no doubt that classrooms could not operate on a daily basis without supplies to facilitate the learning process—it is an invaluable resource, and I certainly don’t mean to undermine the importance of education funding. Money alone is not enough, however. What schools need are good teachers who will use the funding in innovative and meaningful ways.
Studies have found that taking a more active role in education by developing flexible, practical education plans tailored to the specific group of students will yield better performance results.
An A-plus goes to Massachusetts for not only taking note of these trends but also acting on them by developing the improved Education Data Warehouse. Now, the state will have an innovative way to track the correlations between student growth and performance by teacher.
The online database will be a compilation of MCAS scores, student growth, classroom performance, and student and educator statistics for each district.
“It helps us determine patterns over time, like where groups of students may have difficulties, or even more importantly, which are growing beyond what we’d expect, and then talk to the teacher about what he or she is doing differently that our teachers could benefit from,” said Medway Superintendent Judith Evans. “Teachers can then be reflective about what they can do to help students grow. MCAS scores are not about how many students are advanced, but where they started and ended.”