Friday, May 13, 2016

Research contradicts report’s claims about Michigan school finance reform

A recent report from Michigan’s Mackinac Center asserts that there is little or no relationship between student achievement and marginal increases to what the report characterizes as the already “high” levels of spending in that state. Yet, as explained in a review published today, the report clashes with existing research about the positive impact of funding nationally and in Michigan. The report also never substantiates its assertion that Michigan’s present spending levels are high, on average, or uniformly high across all children, districts, or schools statewide.

Rutgers University professor Bruce Baker reviewed School Spending and Student Achievement in Michigan: What's the Relationship?, by Ben DeGrow and Edward C. Hoang, published by the Mackinac Center, at:  for the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder’s School of Education.

The report discounts a significant body of peer-reviewed research that specifically shows positive effects of previous Michigan school finance reforms, including positive effects on state assessments and educational attainment, concentrated on those students who had attended (pre-reform) the lowest funded schools or lower performing schools.

Additionally, Professor Baker notes, the report mistakenly contends that increased spending on schools as they presently exist would necessarily be inefficient and ineffective. This contention is undermined by the lack of evidence for more efficient alternatives and by existing research showing the value of resources such as increased teacher salaries and smaller class sizes. Both a recent major national study and a Michigan-specific study show funding increases as efficacious when allocated primarily toward these traditional investments.

Professor Baker concludes that the empirical analysis included in the report lacks depth and rigor when compared to four other quality studies—three of which were peer-reviewed—each of which find positive effects of prior school finance reforms in Michigan.

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