"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Putting Money into Education

Increasing the budget for public schools would improve the quality of basic education. Is this statement correct and true? The answer is "yes" only if the funds are used to provide the necessary resources for learning. For instance, there is no point in building classrooms in places where these are not needed. Classrooms must be built where schools are badly congested that multiple shifts are already employed. Multiple shifts place a severe restraint on any school. Morning and afternoon shifts do not provide enough flexibility and space for extended instructional hours as well as breaks. Anothe example, textbooks must be provided since learning does not only occur inside the classroom. In fact, a lot of times, learning occurs outside the classroom during peer discussions. Most importantly, teachers must be given adequate pay so that they can concentrate and focus on their work. If the basic needs of a learning environment are not met then the quality of schooling is severely compromised.

Of course, there is data that show that greater spending may lead to higher quality in education. WalletHub recently ranked public school systems in the United States using the following criteria:
Methodology

As back-to-school season arrives, WalletHub compared the school systems among the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. We used 12 key metrics, including student-teacher ratios, dropout rates, test scores and bullying incident rates to assess the quality of education in each state. By highlighting the best school systems, families relocating in the near future can use the available information to compare schools for their children.

The corresponding weights we used are shown below. The two categories under which the metrics are listed were used for organizational purposes only and did not factor in to our overall rankings. 

School System Rank 
  • Presence of Public Schools from one State in Top 700 Best US Schools: 1
  • Remote Learning Opportunities from Online Public Schools: 1
  • Dropout Rates: 1
  • % of Children Who Repeated One or More Grades: 1
  • Bookworms Rank: 0.5
  • Pupil/Teacher Ratio: 1
  • Math Test Scores: 1
  • Reading Test Scores: 1
Education Output & Safety 
  • Safest Schools (Percentage of Public School Students in Grades 9–12 who Reported being Threatened or Injured with a Weapon on School Property): 1
  • Bullying Incidents Rate: 1
  • Percentage of People (25+) with Bachelor’s Degree or Higher: 0.5
  • Champlain University High School Financial Literacy Grade: 1

Sources: Data used to create these rankings is courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Center for Educational Statistics, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Education Association, the Kids Count - Anney E. Casey Foundation, the Center for Financial Literacy - Champlain College, Stopbullying.gov, U.S. News & World Report and K12.com.
Following the above methodology, the ranking is as follows:

Overall Rank
State
School System Quality Rank
Education Output & Safety Rank
1New Jersey12
2Massachusetts212
3Vermont311
4New Hampshire415
5Kansas83
6Colorado131
7Virginia104
8Minnesota631
9Wisconsin720
10Pennsylvania543
11Iowa919
12Texas245
13Connecticut1138
14Maryland1627
15Washington1450
16Ohio2115
T-17Illinois2024
T-17Maine1242
19Missouri2213
20New York277
21Utah288
22Indiana1933
23Nebraska1734
24South Dakota2518
25Wyoming1545
26North Dakota1847
27Idaho2634
28Tennessee326
29Florida2922
30Montana2348
31Rhode Island3129
32Georgia3513
33Oregon3041
34Delaware3721
35Hawaii3625
36Oklahoma439
37North Carolina3817
38Alaska4223
39California3351
40Michigan3444
41Kentucky4039
42South Carolina4428
43Arizona4137
44Arkansas3949
45West Virginia4526
46New Mexico4610
47Nevada4736
48Louisiana4940
49Alabama4846
50Mississippi5130
51District of Columbia50
31

Combining the above with information on how much a state spends on public school education WalletHub produces the following graph:

Above figure copied from WalletHub
The states represented by green circles in the above figure spend more and have better school systems while those shown in red spend less and have under performing schools. Of course, not everything is green or blue, some are grey. One group of grey states spends a lot, but do not have a strong school system. From the above, these are Arkansas, Rhode Island, Wyoming, Delaware, Michigan, Hawaii, District of Columbia, West Virginia, and New Mexico. Perhaps these states are facing problems in education that are beyond merely providing resources. And there are states that in spite of relatively low spending on education still manage to produce very good school systems: Virginia, Ohio, Washington, Missouri, Maine, Nebraska, Texas, and Utah. These states may well be the smart spenders. All in all, there are 17 states (out of 51 (since this list includes DC)) that are neither red nor green, but 34 states do follow the correlation between spending and quality in basic education.






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