Looking ahead, we know that student achievement will need to improve dramatically if all students are to have access to good jobs and secure futures. With little or no new money, most states and districts must struggle with how more achievement can be produced with resources roughly at current or reduced levels. The challenge is to use current and future funds more effectively. To accomplish ambitious student achievement goals, we need a deeper understanding of how spending practices contribute to or impede reforms.
The relationship among fiscal resources and student success is very complex, and we do not yet have answers to many of the questions that states, districts, and schools ask about how to overcome financial challenges in implementing reform efforts. To shed light on the answers, researchers need opportunities to investigate spending patterns of successful and unsuccessful schools and districts. Investigators also need a clearer sense of the challenges and barriers states and districts face and the opportunities they encounter in making good use of resources.
The research we have reported here gives us a new understanding of district spending patterns, resource allocation practices, and allocation challenges in the Southwest. To follow up on these findings, we are already at work to further untangle the connections between resources and performance. We will look again at the all-important instructional expense categories to see whether more fine-grained patterns of allocating funds and staff lead to increased student performance. And we will investigate how the allocation of instructional resources may be different or need to be different for students, teachers, schools, and communities with varying characteristics. As part of our regional mission, we will use the results of this series of studies to create research-based knowledge to help raise student achievement in the Southwest.
Next Page: Additional Resources