NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Grading School Districts

December 12, 2013

School districts should give principals control over hiring and budgets and use performance-based pay, say Lisa Snell and Katie Furtick of the Reason Foundation.

The Reason Foundation established a Weighted Student Formula Yearbook, which grades school districts in 10 different categories, including student test scores, achievement gaps and graduation rates. Using this formula, the authors of the study looked at 14 school districts that use "portable student funding" (systems that allow education dollars to follow students to different schools) and ranked them.

  • The Houston Independent School District came out on top with an A+ grade, largely due to having closed achievement gaps.
  • Baltimore, on the other hand, received the only F of the group, based on large achievement gaps and poor proficiency rates in math, reading and science.

Comparing the practices of the successful and unsuccessful districts, the study recommends a number of practices for school districts:

  • Publishing school report cards for parents.
  • Using performance-based pay for both teachers and principals.
  • Allowing students to enroll in any school within the district.
  • Giving principals control over hiring and budgets.

The study found that allocating budgets based on a per-student basis was one of the main factors that led to better school district performance.

Source: Lisa Snell and Katie Furtick, "Weighted Student Formula Yearbook 2013," Reason Foundation, December 5, 2013.


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