Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Perceptions of District Efficiency May Vary Depending on Which Measures Are Used in Expenditure-to-Performance Ratios

Districts across the county are seeking ways to increase efficiency by maintaining, if not improving, educational outcomes using fewer resources. This report from explores expenditure-to-performance ratios (for example, a ratio of per pupil expenditures to student academic performance) as a proxy measure of district efficiency.

The report shows how conclusions about districts’ use of resources may differ depending on the measures used to calculate expenditure-to-performance ratios. Using example data from a state education department, the study created six expenditure-to-performance ratios and found that districts’ ranking among the top 25 districts in the state varied according to the expenditure and performance measures used to calculate each ratio. Almost half the 98 districts appeared in the top 25 districts under at least one of the six ratios. The 8 districts appearing in the top 25 under all six ratios did not vary systematically from the others in locale, number of students enrolled, or student poverty status.

The study suggests that policymakers investigating district efficiency should carefully consider what expenditure and performance measures are most relevant to their questions of interest.

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