Greater Opportunity Through Innovative Change
ARE MORE TAXDOLLARS THE ANSWER?
Students in Arkansas school districts that spend the most per pupil score above the state average on standardized tests less than one-third of the time (1999-2002). But performance in two districts (Ozark in Johnson County and Alread in Van Buren County) was exceptional. Are the methods these districts use of greater importance than more taxdollars?
Only 23 (1) of Arkansas' 310 K-12 school districts spent more than $7,000 per pupil annually (2000-2001) according to the Statistical Report compiled by the state Department of Education. Yet performance report cards compiled by the Department show approximately one in four districts with high per-pupil expenditures scored above the state average on national and Arkansas benchmark exams more than 50 percent of the time in the 1999-2002 period.(2)
The national exam is the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT0), which is given each year to students in grades 5, 7 and 10. The Arkansas Benchmark Exam is given each year to students in grades 4 and 8 and covers Reading and Writing Literacy and Mathematics. Sixth grade students were added in the 2001-2002 school year.
Those districts with the best student performance on standardized tests, among the 23 districts, were Ozark (Johnson County); Alread (Van Buren); Newark (Independence); Kirby (Pike); Umpire (Howard); Witts Springs (Searcy); and Mt. Holly (Union). Districts are listed in order of performance rank with students in Ozark and Alread scoring the highest.
The remaining 17 districts with high per pupil expenditures scored above the state average on national and Arkansas benchmark exams less than 50 percent of the time in the period. Students in five districts failed to score above the state average once. These districts are Carthage (Dallas County), Crawfordsville (Crittenden), Cotton Plant (Woodruff), Earle (Crittenden) and Little Rock (Pulaski).
Are more taxdollars the answer to the problems facing Arkansas K-12 education?
(1) Arkansas districts that spend more than $7,000 per pupil annually are Arkansas City (Desha County); Mount Judea (Newton); Umpire (Howard); Witts Springs (Searcy); Kirby (Pike); Alread (Van Buren); Scotland (Van Buren); Newark (Independence); Holly Grove (Monroe); Ozark (Johnson); Biggers-Reyno (Randolph); Gould (Lincoln); Fourche Valley (Yell); Mount Holly (Union); Earle (Crittenden); Cotton Plant (Woodruff); Perry-Casa (Perry); Crawfordsville (Crittenden); Carthage (Dallas); Huttig (Union); Saratoga (Hempstead); and Turrell (Crittenden). Data for the 2001-2002 school year were unavailable.
(2) Performance report cards for 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 are final versions. Cards for the 2001-2002 are in draft version. Both are posted online at www.as-is.org General and combined student population test scores are included in this research memo. "General population" is defined in the performance report cards to "include all students, except those students who receive special education services; those students whose first language is not English; and, beginning in 1999-00, those students who recently moved into the district. "Combined population" is defined as "all students, including those students who receive special education services; those students whose first language is not English; and those students who recently moved into the district."