Dr. Baker Receives Funding to Expand Research on School Funding
William T. Grant Foundation is funding the research of Dr. Bruce Baker, along with graduate research assistants including Graduate School of Education Ph.D. student Mark Weber, to expand on the work behind Dr. Baker’s annual report on school funding fairness.
The research involves compiling over 20 years of data on local public school districts, teachers, student populations, and outcome measures, across all states to determine:
- How measures of educational opportunity have changed over time?
- Have resources become more or less equitable over the past two decades?
- Which children, in which states suffered most, the consequences of state school funding reductions that occurred during the great recession?
- What were the consequences, in classrooms, of changes to school funding?
- How were class sizes affected?
- How was teacher compensation affected?
- And which students were most affected, positively or negatively by changes that have occurred over the past 20 years and most recent five years?
- Dr. Baker and his team also plan to explore relationships between changes in schooling resources across different student populations within and across states and the distribution of student outcomes, both on national assessments and state assessments.
This will be an open source project, which in the end, will provide other researchers with access to over 20 years of data (state level panel data) on indicators on fiscal resource, real resource, and outcome equity across states.
Below you will find a question and answer section with Dr. Baker:
What prompted you to start this study? This was an opportunity to build on our work on the School Funding Fairness project, and pull together several data sources covering the past 20 years.
What do you hope to achieve through the expansion of your research? This project will bring together, in one place, several data sources on finances, teacher workforce, schooling resources including class sizes and other staffing ratios, and various measures of student outcomes, constructing various measures of the distributions of those resources and outcomes for evaluating the equity and adequacy of resources available to children across states. Further, covering the past 20 years, we will be able to evaluate the progress we've made, or haven't made over time, and how that progress varies across states. Among other things, we'll be able to more thoroughly characterize the negative effects of the great recession.
Why do you believe it is important for schools to have a resource for high-quality information on state policies in K-12 education? Policymakers, policy wonks and academics need better access to well organized data and indicators on the state of educational equity and how that varies from one state to another, and how or whether that's changed over time. There's too much data free political bluster out there on these topics and this project seeks to, on the one hand, provide opportunity for one stop shopping for indicators of educational equality, and opportunity to summarize what's really happened in education funding, schooling resources and student outcomes over the past two decades. Having this information available also empowers practitioners and the general public to cut through political rhetoric built on common myths.
Why did you decide to make this an open source project? Making the project open source has many advantages. Among other things, following up on the Funding Fairness report, it's been my goal along with some colleagues in the field, to establish standard methods – as applied to publicly available data – for characterizing school funding equity. Making the data, indicators and code by which they are generated open source increases the likelihood that others will adopt similar methods. There's nothing that incredibly technical here and most of the data are readily, publicly available, though not all in one place and not combined as we intend. There will be some data that cannot be shared in this way due to licensing restrictions. But the indicators we generate with those data, at the state level, will be available.
To learn more about Dr. Baker’s past research on school funding, visit the news story School Funding Fairness Suffers Amid National Recession