in defining adequate financing as sufficient resources - Funding series 3


Models for Adequate Spending Levels Since the 1983 publication of A Nation at Risk (Education Commission of the States, 1983), there has been a growing recognition by policy analysts, policy makers, and the courts that an equal distribution of resources will not close the achievement gaps among ethnic and socioeconomic groups. This is particularly true if the amount of resources distributed equitably is not sufficient to provide the instructional resources required to eliminate those gaps. Thus, consideration of equity issues increasingly has been approached from the perspective of adequacy (King, Swanson, & Sweetland, 2005). 

Other researchers have elaborated by blending sufficiency with desired outcomes in defining adequate financing as sufficient resources to provide students with the opportunity to achieve adequately defined levels of knowledge and skills (Guthrie & Rothstien, 2001). There are four primary models used to determine adequate educational spending levels, including the Professional Judgment Model, the Successful Schools Model, the Advanced Statistical Model, and the Evidence-Based Approach Model (King et al., 2005). These four models can provide policy makers options for considerations that utilize measurable means to better address a true understanding of adequate resources. The Professional Judgment Model brings a group of educators together to define the components needed to establish a prototype school that, in their opinion, will have enough resources to enable a specified percentage of students to meet established standards (King et al., 2005). The cost of those resources is then estimated to ascertain an adequate level of funding.

 The professional judgment model is the only method that has been fully implemented by a state. Wyoming conducted a study using this method and, as a result, the legislature approved a plan that cost US$6,050 per student each year (Odden, 2003). The main advantage of this approach is that spending levels for adequacy can be estimated in the absence of a sophisticated student assessment system. It is easy to explain to the public, and the resulting estimates are based on the judgments of professional educators with experience in educating students. The Successful Schools Model looks at all schools in the state and identifies the ones that are meeting the stateapproved standards. The amount of money these schools are spending becomes the adequate funding level for the state (Picus & Blair, 2004). However, flaws have been identified in this model. 

For example, the model bases its recommendations on only a few educational standards and fails to account for many of the other important functions of a good education (Picus & Blair, 2004). According to Odden (2003), because atypical districts are usually eliminated when using this approach, the result is often based on average-sized nonmetropolitan districts that are demographically homogeneous and spend below the state average. The successful school district approach does not specify a way to make adjustments for characteristics of individual districts, leading to potential disagreements over how to meet the needs of many students, especially those with high needs. The Advanced Statistical Model represents the most technically complex model. This approach attempts to estimate how much money would be needed to attain a certain level of student performance, while controlling for the characteristics of the district and its students. 

A number of important insights about relationships between inputs and outputs may be gleaned from cost function analyses. Many of these insights can be used to inform policy and help determine the magnitude of adjustments for students and district characteristics (Picus & Blair, 2004). 

Proponents believe that with enough information on education expenditures and student characteristics, statistical techniques can determine the funding needed to meet education standards (Smith & Pettersen, 2002). The primary concern with this model is its complexity; lawmakers and the public in general are very suspicious of complex models and may mistrust the final calculations (Picus & Blair, 2004). The final method used to determine “adequate” funding is the evidence-based approach. This model relies on current educational research to identify resources needed for a prototypical school to meet the state’s student performance standards (Picus & Blair, 2004). Once identified, those specifications are subject to the “professional judgment” of officials in the state to validate the research-based recommendations. These costs are then estimated and applied to actual schools in the state. One drawback is the fact that research-based models will not always work in absolutely every situation (Picus, 2000).

Spending for Improvement in Student Achievement In considering the aforementioned funding models, many states, including Alabama, have yet to make the change to funding with an emphasis on student performance. Most states who adopted formulas similar to the foundation program formula used in Alabama have failed to recognize that the amount of money needed to educate students in one district may not be the amount needed to educate other students in a different district (Reschovsky & Imazeki, 2000). Alabama, however, has invested in three programs designed to improve student achievement in three critical areas. 

These include the Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI), the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative (AMSTI) and the Alabama Connecting Classrooms Educators and Students Statewide (ACCESS) in advanced secondary classes. Now that states have set ambitious performance goals for their students and the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 has demanded that all children achieve those standards in reading and mathematics by 2013-2014, the push is to link education spending to academic results (Olson, 2005). While Alabama has yet to define a true meaning of an “adequate” education, it has chosen to direct specific allocations focused on improving the academic results of students. In 1998,

 the state launched a study of 16 schools participating in the ARI using US$1.5 million dollars from corporate donations to fund the project. The initiative was targeted to strengthen reading instruction in the early grades, continuously expanding all students’ reading power and comprehension, and intervening effectively with struggling readers. AMSTI provides three basic services to schools in an effort to boost hands-on learning experiences in math and science. Central to its success is a strong recurring professional development model that involves all teachers in Grades K-8 with extensive professional development training.

 In addition, teachers are supported throughout the year with prepackaged manipulative kits that allow each class to engage in hands-on learning experiences. The ACCESS represents a statewide initiative that focused on bringing true equity in instructional opportunities to all Alabama high school students. It provides a blended approach of online and interactive learning experiences through a statewide distance learning effort. When fully implemented, 

all 440 Alabama high schools will be connected; each will have the have the ability to offer students more rigorous and advanced learning opportunities. This initiative began in 2006 with 24 pilot sites and an appropriation of US$10 million dollars, and has been granted increased state funding each year to its current level of US$25 million dollars for FY2009 (Alabama Department of Education Legislative Budget Request, FY 2008-2009). 

These efforts have served to focus resources on improving student learning and have produced significant academic gains statewide. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which was released in September 2007, showed Alabama public schools made more improvement in fourth-grade reading than any other state in the nation. The NAEP report showed a significant gain of eight points in fourth-grade reading for Alabama students—almost triple the national average in gains. In 2005, the scaled score was 208, and in 2007 it increased to 216. Today, Alabama is only four scale score points away from the national average (220) in fourth-grade reading (The Nation’s Report Card: NAEP, 

In addition, NAEP data show Alabama posted gains in fourth-grade mathematics and in eighth-grade mathematics. In 2005, fourth graders in Alabama scored 225 points, and in 2007 the score rose to 229. While the national average improved by two points, Alabama’s score showed a fourpoint gain. The percentage of students who performed at or above the NAEP proficiency level was 26% in 2007, up from 21% in 2005. Alabama’s eighth graders improved NAEP mathematics score from 262 in 2005 to 266 in 2007 (The Nation’s Report Card: NAEP, These focused appropriations have begun to move Alabama up in the nationally ranked means of measuring student achievement. This study looks at four constructs of educational funding perspectives: (a) equity and adequacy, (b) personal values, (c) political ideology, and (d) social influence. It is important to understand how such perspectives are formed.

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