Date of Award

12-2005

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Teaching, Learning, and Leadership (to 2007)

First Advisor

Dr. Sue Poppink

Abstract

Resource equalization represents the historical and theoretical basis for American school finance and its ideals continue to dominate discussion and practice. During the last decade and a half, the national aspiration for equitable distribution of school finance resources has started a transformation into a derivative notion of adequacy. This equity policy derivative embraces the idea of sufficiency, which in turn implies a standard. The concept of educational adequacy has grown to mean the achievement of high absolute standards. Equity (equalization) theorists measure resource level on a relative basis; each student relative to all others. Adequacy adherents measure student achievement against a defined set of standards and argue for the provision of resources that allow each student the opportunity to achieve the standard. In this instance, equality results from the opportunity provided, not the similarity of resources.

A prime criticism of such a policy arises from the possibility of simply rewarding inefficiency. More resources could flow to those with higher costs without regard to the judicious exercise of stewardship. This objection supplies the primary question posed by this study. What proportion of the variation in Michigan student achievement is explained by school efficiency? This research partially replicates, for Michigan, analysis using Minnesota elementary and secondary school achievement test scores and other data. Its goal consists of estimating the effects of resource efficiency on student achievement. This information constitutes a prerequisite for a transition, in Michigan, from school funding based on equity, to a formula relying on adequacy. Adequacy based approaches allow for legitimate financial disparities between schools occasioned by student need. Objective analysis may serve to ease its progress through the troublesome political process any such transition will encounter.

The methodology employed weighted least squares regression using an education production function to estimate which portion of variance in statewide student achievement can be explained by district efficiency. The results reveal that school district efficiency explains fifteen percent of the variation in Michigan student achievement.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

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