Study looks at ‘bang for the buck’

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By Jesse Osbourne


A recent study by the Bluegrass Institute sought to examine how efficient Kentucky schools are.

According to that study, Washington County ranked 56th out of 169 districts.
“I believe all districts in Kentucky have worked hard to cut budgets and make wise decisions with the funds that have been allocated to us,” Robin Cochran, superintendent of Washington County Schools, said of the study.
Many times, she said, the general public wants to look at test scores as the sole source of success and “this report attempts to create an analysis between the expenditures and academic performance.”
“However, we will always exhibit caution when it comes to using test scores alone to judge success,” she said. “We are working with students, not widgets, and therefore, it is more complicated than using a score to measure success.”
The study looks at average daily attendance in 2011, total expenses per pupil in 2011, percent of students in free and reduced cost lunch in 2011, the 2011 district ACT average composite scores. The schools are ranked according to the ACT-based-score-spending index.
Of the eight total school districts in adjoining counties, Washington County was fourth.
Average daily attendance in the district in 2011 was noted as 1,483.613. Total expenses per pupil in 2011 was calculated at $9,986. The percent of students in free and reduced cost lunch was 61 percent. The ACT average composite score was 18.5. The ACT- based score-spending index, which determines ranking, was 5.18.
The highest-ranking school was Beechwood Independent, with an index of 52.99. Only 12 percent of the Beechwood district student population was eligible for free and reduced lunch.
The lowest-ranking school was Owsley County, with an index score of -40.57. Approximately 88 percent of the student population was eligible for free and reduced lunch.
The state average for expenses per pupil in 2011 was $10,814. The state average for students eligible for free and reduced lunch was 56 percent. The average index score was -1.30.
Cochran added that the new accountability system, which results’ will be announced in the near future, will come as a shock to most districts.
“We anticipate these results not being favorable and needing time to analyze and refocus – possibly shifting where our priorities are placed (as well as expenditures),” she said via email on Monday.
According to the study, Bluegrass Institute is a ‘free-market think tank, dedicated to arming Kentucky’s freedom fighters with the information they need to defend their individual liberties.’ The organization is a 501 (c) 3 educational organization.
According to the executive summary in the study, nearly 60 percent of the state’s general fund supports education in the state’s public schools and colleges.
“Furthermore, there has been a dramatic increase in the commonwealth’s funding for education since the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 was enacted,” according to the study. “In inflation-adjusted dollars, real spending on public education in Kentucky nearly doubled between 1989 and 2010.”
The entire study can be found online at www.freedomkentucky.org/images/0/02/Bang_for_the_Buck_2012.pdf.