Despite ‘austerity cuts’ Georgia’s k-12 students make big gains

Credit: Drew Hurst/SCAD-Atlanta

With all the talk about the billions of dollars in “austerity cuts” to Georgia’s public schools, you could be forgiven for thinking our students’ academic performance must have suffered. But you would be wrong.

In fact, Georgia’s performance has been improving steadily, even for students from low-income families.

Those gains are documented well in a new report by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. The free-market think tank examined scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, considered the “nation’s report card” and the gold standard for state-to-state comparisons, in 2013 (the latest data available) and in 2003 (the earliest year for which information is available for all states). As it happens, the 2003 school year was also the last time the state’s budget was totally set by Democrats, before all those austerity cuts under Republicans. Here’s a visual representation of the results from GPPF:

Eligible-800x544

NotEligible-800x581

In 2003, by each measure Georgia’s students scored in the bottom half of states and, not surprisingly, outscored very few states. By 2013, the only measure by which they remained in the bottom half were math scores for low-income children — but even on those tests, Georgia’s students made strides. And on the reading tests, Georgia’s low-income children made very big gains.

But back to the issue of money. Here’s what GPPF found when it looked for states that, like Georgia, have poverty rates above the national average but which also scored better than Georgia on these tests:

“This gives us six states: Delaware, Florida, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas and Utah.

“The spending per pupil (adjusted for cost of living differences) for these states are:

Georgia     $9,890
Delaware     $13,522
Florida     $8,535
North Carolina     $9,160
Oregon     $9,659
Texas     $8,600
Utah     $6,772

“Other than Delaware, these states have three things in common: 1) They have similar poverty rates to Georgia (all are above the national average), 2) they are spending less money per student than Georgia (adjusted for cost of living) and 3) they have significantly outperformed Georgia students in at least one area.

“For comparison, Georgia has more than 1.6 million students, so every dollar change in per student spending is equivalent to more than $1.6 million.”

The comparisons to Florida, North Carolina and Texas are particularly telling. The closest of those three to our spending is North Carolina, and the difference between our spending — using that $1.6 million per $1 in per-pupil spending — comes out to more than $1.1 billion. That’s $1.1 billion more that we’re spending compared to them, to lesser effect.

There’s a lot of data to play around with on GPPF’s site, so feel free to take a look and report back your findings. But the data seem to point to a couple of conclusions: We’re doing better than you might have thought when we compare like students to like students, and more money doesn’t seem to be the answer.

Reader Comments 0

54 comments
TheCentrist
TheCentrist

If money is not the answer, why does it cost $25,000 per student to attend great private schools?

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

This study tries, but it still takes a big swing and a miss.


It is not poverty levels that impact student achievement per se, but the racial demographics.  The black / white "achievement gap" has been studied for sixty years now.  The government has failed time after time after time to close that gap.  Given that poor whites below the poverty line outscore high income blacks with household incomes >$80,000, the greatest predictor of school achievement is the racial demographics.


I wish some study would stratify student demographics by race and income level and then compare to the achievement level.  My guess, middle income blacks in GA would compare closely to middle income blacks in other states.  Same with the other demographics.


But no, the politically correct will never allow it.  Much better to wonder why Utah, with it's 92% white population, has the lowest spending per student, but seems to be doing very well, thankyouverymuch.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

"That’s $1.1 billion more that we’re spending compared to them (NC), to lesser effect."

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


One of the variables which has probably contributed to this result is the educational history of Georgia compared with the educational history of North Carolina.  According to my father, a native of North Carolina's public schools and a graduate of Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, NC, the emphasis upon education by the citizens of North Carolina has always been a priority for them, even for those citizens in the mountains of western North Carolina, where he had been born and raised and where he had received an excellent education.  My father was born in 1919 in NC and he left to join the Army/Air Force after college in WWII.  He was stationed in Albany, GA, where I was born, and he made his life (and that of my family) in Georgia, thereafter.

PJ25
PJ25

If money made great students, APS would be full of honor grads. 

proudparent01
proudparent01

And don't forget Atlanta Public Schools whose NAEP scores have grown significantly higher than the state of Georgia and almost all other TUDA districts. 

WilJohnson
WilJohnson

Mr. Wingfield highlights a study which doesn't consider SAT scores and graduation rates, which happen to be important milestones. The NEAP study does show that Georgia is improving. both poor and not-poor. But relative to what?  For the poor NEAP demonstrates that in the the bottom third of the barrel we are swimming a little higher.  For the not-so-poor NEAP shows that we have moved from 40th in the country to 36th.


If you're a provincial Tea party Republican you are so proud of yourself that you underfunded Georgia schools for years and you have found a piece of a study that says you were justified in doing so.


Way to go.

MHSmith
MHSmith

Study: No Link Between School Spending, Student Achievement

April 7, 2014 12:28 PM


WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Decades of increased taxpayer spending per student in U.S. public schools has not improved student or school outcomes from that education, and a new study finds that throwing money at the system is simply not tied to academic improvements.

The study from the CATO Institute shows that American student performance has remained poor, and has actually declined in mathematics and verbal skills, despite per-student spending tripling nationwide over the same 40-year period.


“The takeaway from this study is that what we’ve done over the past 40 years hasn’t worked,” Andrew Coulson, director of the Center For Educational Freedom at the CATO Institute, told Watchdog.org. “The average performance change nationwide has declined 3 percent in mathematical and verbal skills. Moreover, there’s been no relationship, effectively, between spending and academic outcomes.”


http://washington.cbslocal.com/2014/04/07/study-no-link-between-school-spending-student-achievement/

MHSmith
MHSmith

Does Spending More on Education Improve Academic Achievement?




Conclusion


Taxpayers have invested considerable resources in the nation's public schools. However, ever-increasing funding of Education has not led to similarly improved student performance. Instead of simply increasing funding for public Education, federal and state policymakers should implement Education reforms designed to improve resource allocation and boost student performance.



http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2008/09/does-spending-more-on-education-improve-academic-achievement

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Hooray! Public education in GA is doing great even with less spending. We are on the right path and steadily making progress. Republicans will be disappointed about Kyles's evidence that removes the logic behind OSD, private school credits, charter schools and vouchers.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Kyle_Wingfield @AvgGeorgian


I think we agreed below that your article was not real research, useless as a guide to understanding educational spending, and nothing could be proved by it. I will point readers to a quick explanation on causation and correlation. 


"Correlation does not always mean that one thing causes the other thing (causation], because something else might have caused both. For example, on hot days people buy ice cream, and people also go to the beach where some are eaten by sharks. There is a correlation between ice cream sales and shark attacks (they both go up as the temperature goes up in this case). But just because ice cream sales go up does not mean ice cream sales cause (causation) more shark attacks or vice versa"  https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlation


Now shark attacks may or may not be caused by increased ice cream sales based on this collection of facts, but you have follow some research rules to present your findings as relevant to the discussion. Your article followed no rules and even discounted it's interpretations.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@AvgGeorgian Nah. The OSD is for schools that aren't producing these kinds of results. Charters, vouchers, etc. help students in schools that are still bad, just not OSD-bad. Just think how much higher the scores would be if those perennially failing schools weren't dragging them down.

And you still haven't produced an actual argument, just mockery. Which strikes me as pretty telling.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Kyle_Wingfield @AvgGeorgian


As to the perennially failing schools, are you including the failing State Charter Commission schools who for some reason are exempt from posting financial accountability data, or are you willing to let them continue to fail as long as they meet "charter" goals. Also, do you think the combination of failing schools and missing financial accountability data by the state's commission, are indicative of what we can expect from more state control?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@AvgGeorgian There is one charter school on the failing list, not multiple ones. And a charter school that performs poorly should absolutely be closed down -- that's the whole point. Measures like OSD merely apply the same type of accountability to traditional public schools (and charter schools, if they are taken in, though I would probably be in favor of simply closing those and focusing on TPS).

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

If we wanted to stop the progress Our Governor Deal has made, we'd have voted for the obstructionist Democrats.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Kyle_Wingfield @AvgGeorgian


List of charter state commissioned schools with CCRPI below 60.


Several others are below the state average and all of these schools show no posted financial accountability data as is required of regular public schools.

http://ccrpi.gadoe.org/2014/ccrpi2014.aspx


Does it not concern you that these schools did not appear on the failing schools list and that all of the state commissioned schools do not post normal financial accountability data? This is the state's record of performance on running schools so far and it doesn't look good.


Atlanta Heights 56.8

CCAT 56.9

Provost Academy 33.2

Odyssey 59.1

Mountain Ed. 56.1

Ivy Prep Men’s 44.4

Heritage Prep 52


As to charter schools - they only have to meet charter goals to be considered to meet performance standards, allowing failing performance on state standards but adequate performance on charter goals. You have to watch out for that trick.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@AvgGeorgian "Does it not concern you that these schools did not appear on the failing schools list..."

No, because to land on the failing schools list a school must be below 60 three straight years.

"...and that all of the state commissioned schools do not post normal financial accountability data?"

That is a problem, one that the commission says it is working on. But if we're being honest, traditional public schools' finances are not exactly transparent. Districts report spending in such large buckets that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to determine in much detail how money is being spent at the school level.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

So, all this started in 2003, any way you can give some of the credit to Obama, haha!  He needs an accomplishment or two for his library.


Well, I guess GWB's No Child Left Behind must not have been that bad of a program, despite all the critics! 

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Congratulations to the students, teachers, and parents who have committed their time and energy to bring about these improvements.

YES YOU CAN! 

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@RafeHollister

Because the only time they're in the classroom is for a photo op.

They really are irrelevant when it comes to success in the INDIVIDUAL classrooms.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Silly leftists still equating spending with progress?

They never learn.

They have one solution to every problem--more taxes on someone else.

When we were educating the generation that put a man on the moon, education spending was about $1200 per student per year, and that is in today's dollars.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@HeadleyLamar @LilBarryBailout 

Yes because there is a direct correlation between the two. 


Except when there isn't, like Washington DC school districts who spend the most and get less than others spending less.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar A revised draft of an unpublished -- and thus yet-to-be-peer-reviewed -- paper? That's the best you've got?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@AvgGeorgian Tell me how you explain away the data about Georgia specifically. We have had supposedly crippling "austerity cuts" for the past decade, and yet during that time we have leap-frogged over a number of states.

That's raw data. It doesn't take much analysis or peer review, particularly in comparison to the other article referenced. If it's so obviously wrong, tell us why.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Kyle_Wingfield @AvgGeorgian


You used an article that adjusted for cost of living. What other assumptions are made? Are groups of kids in or out of poverty completely interchangeable? Is there any difference in family structure, parents' level of education, programs to reduce poverty ( http://www.sltrib.com/info/staff/1628270-155/poverty-intergenerational-utah-percent-report-welfare ), targeted preparation for NAEP style standardardized 4th grade reading tests? Research is very very time consuming and difficult. 


If you are saying that Georgia public education and specifically public school teachers are doing a great job especially given a high poverty rate and less money, I hear you. Maybe instead of diverting money to private school tax credits, charters, and vouchers, we could divert money from central offices and increase teacher pay to bring in even better teachers.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@AvgGeorgian "You used an article that adjusted for cost of living."

For one aspect, not for the one I specifically asked you about.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

One of the changes in the last six years is that family incomes have dropped and income inequality has risen.

Darn those financial changes!

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

The article seems to show that the GPPF  could also write an article that shows the best way to get from Atlanta to Athens is by way of Albany. I question the use of adjusting per student expenditures by cost of living. Do we use that adjustment to examine all other state spending? They also use only a 4th grade math and reading test and lump states as on one side of an average. There is also no determination on how money is spent. In statistics there are lies and ....


Let's go with the GPPF premise (although they say this is really only one way to interpret the data) though.


The premise is spending less on education improves performance especially for poor children. Let's put that in practice. All you parents should immediately reduce educational spending on your children in hopes that their academic performance will improve. Things to cut out: trips to the library, zoo, museum, tablet for reading, book subscriptions, vacations where they learn new stuff, magazines, tutors, SAT prep, etc.. You could also try that with their diet - reduce costly health foods and restaurant meals and watch for health improvements.


It also seems that Kyle is giving a big shout out to public schools and teachers for their amazing ability to do more with less. This Damascus road like conversion will surely have Kyle coming out against charter schools, vouchers, OSD and the like now that we have discovered the key - keep them in public schools and reduce funding.


I feel really sorry for the kids at expensive private schools now that we have discovered that more spending just makes you dumber.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@AvgGeorgian "The premise is spending less on education improves performance especially for poor children."

That's not the premise at all. Rather, these stats indicate that the opposite premise -- spending more on education improves performance especially for poor children -- is false. More specifically, the stats indicate spending and performance are simply not correlated. (And yes, accounting for cost of living costs is absolutely fair, given that salaries make up so much of our educational costs and, say, $50,000 will buy a lot more in certain parts of the country than others.)

As for the rest of your sarcasm: What the data do indicate is that poverty and "inadequate" spending, the two things most commonly blamed for public schools' shortcomings, don't hold up as solid excuses. Some public schools are getting the job done anyway. And for many students stuck in schools or systems that prefer to continue making excuses, school choice is the only way out.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Kyle_Wingfield @AvgGeorgian


Here is their statement "Other than Delaware, these states have three things in common: 1) They have similar poverty rates to Georgia (all are above the national average), 2) they are spending less money per student than Georgia (adjusted for cost of living) and 3) they have significantly outperformed Georgia students in at least one area." 


It is perfectly reasonable to surmise that lower per pupil spending for poor states like Georgia increases academic performance. They provided no researched level of adequate educational funding or how these states are using funding to do specific things that improve performance. 


It is just a poorly constructed puff piece with random stats used to push the agenda of a "think tank". Most readers don't have the time or expertise in research to look behind the curtain. 



Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@AvgGeorgian And yet, without even that amount of evidence, you continue to think it's about money.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@AvgGeorgian Saying a handful of states had a few things in common is not the same thing as saying that one of those things would always be true. Someone who claims to know all about these things -- as opposed to, say, pushing an agenda -- ought to understand that.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Kyle_Wingfield

"And for many students stuck in schools or systems that prefer to continue making excuses, school choice is the only way out."


Please list the schools where a hardworking, motivated student that listens in class, does homework, studies hard and takes advantage of tutoring cannot perform adequately on Georgia's standardized tests.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@AvgGeorgian Oh, so now we're back to blaming the kids. Yeah, I forgot there were three excuses: poverty, spending, and the kids.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@AvgGeorgian Why is it that some schools with lots of poor kids end up with all the hardworking, motivated kids who listen in class, do their homework, study hard and take advantage of tutoring, and other schools get all the -- my inference from what you've said -- lazy poor kids? 

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Kyle_Wingfield @AvgGeorgian


I did not characterize the work ethic of any schools' population. You made that up (why, I don't know). . I simply asked you for a list of schools that are so bad that a hardworking motivated student could not perform adequately on Georgia's performance tests in those schools? 


I am still waiting for the list.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@AvgGeorgian Part 1: "Please list the schools where a hardworking, motivated student that listens in class, does homework, studies hard and takes advantage of tutoring cannot perform adequately on Georgia's standardized tests."

@AvgGeorgian Part 2: "I did not characterize the work ethic of any schools' population."

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Kyle_Wingfield @AvgGeorgian


You miss the point. My sentence asks for a school where any student who applies him/herself in this manner would be unable to meet adequate performance standards. The student may or may not exist in that school.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@AvgGeorgian Yes, you suggested very strongly that such students do not exist at these schools. 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

I'm wondering if these gains are made because they simply changed the scoring methods ala the recovery districts in New Orleans.


I'm hoping not but remain skeptical. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar This is a national test, with its own standards and testing protocols (unlike the tests APS cheated on). So any changes would have benefited the other states as much as Georgia. Keep in mind, those charts show our gains relative to other states.