Related The money that didn’t reach the high-needs students wasn’t necessarily “wasted,” he said; instead of being targeted, it was spread evenly among all students across a district. Smaller classes, more novice teachers: the ‘tradeoff‘ for low-income California schools
Lafortune examined school-level financial data reported to the state for all districts with more than 250 students and with more than 10 schools. He was able to do the research using federally mandated school-level data available for the first time. School districts on average are directing only 55 cents of every dollar of extra funding from the Local Control Funding Formula to the schools that high-needs students who generate the money attend, research fellow Julien Lafortune concluded in a policy brief and full report.
The “imperfect targeting of resources to high-need students within districts remains a concern,” he wrote, adding that there are big differences among districts in the extent to which they target the additional resources. Diverting funds intended for California’s high-needs students for other spending “dampens” the potential to significantly close the achievement gap between high-poverty and low-poverty students, new research from the Public Policy Institute of California has found.
The money is paying off, particularly in the districts with the highest-needs students, Lafortune found, raising tests scores on the Smarter Balanced standardized tests in math and English language arts and enabling more to meet the course requirements for admission to the California State University and the University of California. In the highest-need districts — those with 80% or more students targeted with extra funding — the share of students meeting or exceeding standards increased by 10 and 9 percentage points in English language arts and math, respectively, while at lower-need districts, the share increased 4 and 5 points from 2014-15 through 2018-19. Low-income districts narrowed the achievement gap by 6 percentage points in English language arts and 4 percentage points in math. As of this year, districts in which targeted students make up at least 60% of enrollment, which is about the statewide average for high-needs students, receive an extra 15% in funding. Districts in which targeted students make up 80% of enrollment receive about a third more in additional funding.
The Local Control Funding Formula provides the bulk of the general funding that school districts and charter schools receive from the state. Along with a base grant for all students, it provides “supplemental” money for every high-needs student plus “concentration” funding that sharply increases when they comprise most of the students in a district. Under the funding formula, high-needs students are low-income, foster and homeless students, as well as English learners, who are targeted for additional funding. PPIC’s research also indicates that the funding formula is having a positive impact on improving test scores and college eligibility, particularly in districts that receive the most funding.
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- Almost half the money for high-need students who don’t make it to schools, according to the analysis.
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