NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 28, 2004

Contrary to the assumption that poor-performing schools are under funded, a new study conducted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation reveals that other factors, especially those outside of the classroom, have a stronger effect on student achievement.

The study also found:

  • Poverty and adult education are the strongest factors affecting student achievement outside the classroom: higher poverty correlates with lower student achievement, and higher adult education correlates with higher student achievement.
  • High attendance rates are the strongest factor affecting student achievement in the classroom: high attendance correlate with high student achievement.
  • Teacher salaries are not correlated with student achievement, but high rates of teacher turnover result in lower student achievement.

Moreover, the problem with Texas schools, says the study, is not lack of funding, but a lack of productivity. Indeed, the Texhoma Independent School District, one of the most efficient in the state, spends only $4,358 per pupil (almost half of the state average expenditure), yet 93 percent of their students pass the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills Test, compared with the state average of 68 percent.

To improve school district efficiency and student achievement, the researchers recommend:

  • Generating a greater proportion of school funding from local revenues, perhaps by increasing the local sales tax, instead of resorting to state funds.
  • Creating incentives that reward efficiency, instead of simply increasing expenditures and funding.
  • Increasing teacher salaries based on merit and student achievement.
  • Allowing school choice for parents through state-funded vouchers.

Sources: Krista Kafer, "Study: Texas Must Focus on Productivity," School Reform News, May 2004, Heartland Institute and Richard Vedder and Joshua Hall, "Effective, Efficient, Fair: Paying for Public Education in Texas," Texas Public Policy Foundation, February 2004.

For study text:


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