Policy Documents

No. 22 Expenditure And Size Efficiencies Of Public School Districts

Herbert J. Walberg and William J. Fowler, Jr. –
September 27, 1988

The purpose of this study is to analyze the possible association of achievment test scores in more than 500 districts in New Jersey to their levels of socioeconomic status (SES), expenditures per student, and student enrollments. The study bears upon the efficiency or productivity of schools districts in the sense of increasing the learning of their students beyond what would be expected from their family socioeconomic origins. Efficient districts bring about high levels of learning even though their students may be equally or even less socially and economically advantaged than students in other districts.

The study deals with the possible dependence of achievement on three obvious characteristics of school districts -- SES, expenditures, and size -- and asks: Are larger and higher-spending districts more efficient? The research literatures on these questions are voluminous and somewhat disparate, and deserve summary and analytic discussion. Fortunately, several excellent reviews, as well as recent quantitative syntheses, may be drawn upon.


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