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A closer look at spending and test scores in East Bay schools

A recent study by California Watch has found no correlation between the amount of money school districts spend per student and their level of academic achievement on test scores.

The study compared 2009-10 school district per student spending and 2010 Academic Performance Index (API) scores.

For each district, the study showed whether spending and scores fell into the top 25 percent, median 50 percent or bottom 25 percent. Based on this data, I looked at which East Bay districts got the biggest bang for their bucks, as well as those that didn’t.

However, it is important to note that elementary districts receive less funding from the state than unified districts and high school districts receive more, based on the increased costs of running unified and high school districts. 

BEST BANG FOR BUCKS (Spending in bottom 25 percent, with academic achievement in top 25 percent):
Brentwood elementary: spent $6,918 per student, API of 840
Castro Valley unified: spent $7,429 per student, API of 854
Fremont unified: spent $7,449 per student, API of 868
Walnut Creek elementary: spent $7,345 per student, API of 907

BIGGEST DISCONNECT BETWEEN SPENDING AND SCORES (Spending in top 25 percent, with performance in bottom 25 percent):
Emery unified: spent $13,680 per student, API of 709
Oakland unified: spent $10,958 per student, API of 719

For districts that didn’t land at one end or the other, I looked to see if spending was in the median range of $8,213 per student, compared to the median score of 783.

Districts that spent in the median range, but got test results in the top 25 percent, appeared to be getting a good bang for their bucks.

GOOD BANG FOR BUCKS (Median range spending, with API in top 25 percent):
Acalanes High: spent $9,327, API of 899
Dublin unified: spent $7,945, API of 878
Orinda elementary: spent $9,473, API of 954
Pleasanton unified: spent $7,599, API of 906
San Ramon Valley unified: spent $7,824, API of 916
Sunol Glen unified: spent $8,416, API of 909

Those that spent in the high or median range, but scored lower, appeared to be getting poorer performance for their money.

POOR PERFORMANCE COMPARED TO SPENDING:
Top 25 percent of spending, but median API:
Berkeley unified: spent $12,092, API of 785

Median spending, API in bottom 25 percent:
Pittsburg unified: spent $7,995, API of 718
San Leandro unified: spent $7,709, API of 730
West Contra Costa unified: spent $8,899, API of 696

In several districts, the level of spending appeared to match the level of achievement.

HIGH SPENDING AND HIGH PERFORMANCE (Top 25 percent for both):
Piedmont unified: spent $11,589, API of 925

MEDIAN SPENDING AND MEDIAN PERFORMANCE (Both in median 50 percent):
Alameda city unified: spent $8,630, API of 833
Livermore Valley unified: spent $8,213, API of 822
Mountain House elementary: spent $8,707, API 743
Mt. Diablo unified: spent $8,199, API of 784
New Haven unified: spent $8,182, API of 777
Newark unified: spent $8,089, API of 762
San Lorenzo unified: spent $8,096, API of 739

LOW SPENDING AND LOW PERFORMANCE (Bottom 25 percent for both):
Antioch unified: spent $7,578, API of 732

The complete California Watch database is at http://projects.CaliforniaWatch.org/school-district-spending/county-browse/

NOTE: New 2011 API scores were released last week.

Do you think local districts are spending their money wisely?

Posted on Wednesday, September 7th, 2011
Under: California, East Bay, Education | 80 Comments »