Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Where does all the (school) funding go?

I'm no statistician. In fact, I try to avoid statistics. But some statistics are too frightening to ignore.

A chart developed by The Atlantic and re-published on GOOD.is, compares U.S. states to nations across the globe, based on achievements in mathematics. The chart compares 58 nations to the 50 United States and ranks each nation or state on an equal plane.

Ironically, the state-to-nation rankings aren't what frighten me most. Despite my aversion to numbers, it is the position of each state on the state-to-nation comparison that grabs my attention.

Food for thought: The state ranking 32nd in the above mentioned comparison, California (which would rank at 71 out of 108 when all states are treated nations), receives only 29% of its funding from local sources, versus state or federal sources.*

The highest-ranking state in the above-mentioned comparison, Massachusetts, receives 53% of its funding from local sources, per statistical results released this year for 2008 and 2009, from the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), a div. of the US Dept of Ed.* Incidentally, on the chart from The Atlantic, Massachusetts, were it a nation, would rank at number 17 overall -- behind 16 other nations.

Some may argue that the dismal U.S. rankings may provide as "persuasive a case for national education standards as any currently out there," (per GOOD). If so, however, then shouldn't states like MA (where local dollars presumably lead to better achievement) be concerned about the possibility of nationalizing education?

There's no denying that the U.S. falls behind other nations in rankings for test scores. The greater concern should be that state-by-state comparisons beg for greater attention to how school funds are spent.

In a peculiar observation, if you closely compare observing the above three charts you'll find that the state of Missouri ranks lower than California in the comparison chart in The Atlantic but that Missouri receives a greater portion of its school funding from local sources than Massachusetts. With this possible false-dichotomy of school spending to performance, states and municipalities that effectively manage their funds should be worried about nationalized education.

Where does this place the highest-ranking school districts of the lowest-ranking states?

Coming Soon on the Candid Cameron blog: U.S. students may be failing, relatively, on tests involving rote-memorization. But are we teaching the critical thinking methods necessary for developing life skills that can advance our youth to leadership?

*SOURCES:
Table 1: http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2010/2010326.pdf
Table 17: http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d09/tables/dt09_017.asp

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