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MORE EVIDENCE LINKING ABBOTT FUNDING TO IMPROVED STUDENT OUTCOMES

STUDY DOCUMENTS DRAMATIC GAINS FOR BLACK AND HISPANIC STUDENTS

Another research study has linked the additional funding provided to New Jersey’s 31 urban school districts under the landmark Abbott v. Burke school funding case to improved student outcomes. The latest study, by Alexandra Resch at the University of Michigan, found that the additional dollars directed to the urban districts were largely spent on instruction and support services and resulted in "a significant positive impact on 11th grade achievement."

Dr. Resch’s research further debunks the myth that the urban or "Abbott" districts have wasted taxpayer money. In reality, the funding has delivered long-overdue improvements in some of the poorest, most segregated school districts in the nation.

In the first part of her study, Dr. Resch analyzed data from a number of sources to determine how much of the additional money flowing to the Abbott districts actually made it to schools and students. She concluded that the increased spending was focused on K-12 expenditures, with about equal amounts going to instruction and supplemental services. She found that the Abbott districts hired more teachers, tutors and counselors than other districts.

To determine what impact the additional resources had on student achievement, Dr. Resch analyzed the only longitudinal assessment data that spanned a large period of the reform without dramatic change, the High School Proficiency Test (HSPT). She found that the Abbott reforms significantly increased math and reading performance for Black and Hispanic students.

Unfortunately, the NJ Department of Education has never conducted a systematic evaluation of the programs put in place in the Abbott districts, making it difficult to determine what had the most impact. As Dr. Resch concludes,"[t]he good news in this paper is that the money provided to disadvantaged districts in the Abbott case did largely go to schools, and it was spent on things that can be reasonably expected to improve student achievement: instruction and support services. The bad news is that the state has not evaluated these changes in a comprehensive or convincing way."

Even more alarming is the State’s recent decision to discontinue the Abbott reforms altogether. These reforms directed funds to school based programs, staff and services, such as intensive early literacy initiatives, tutors, after school programs, and social and health services. In sharp contrast to Abbott, the new school funding law – the School Funding Reform Act of 2008 – has no requirements that high needs urban and other districts utilize funding for any particular program or reform designed to improve student achievement, and DOE is imposing minimal requirements through its regulations.

Educators, advocates and parents are expressing deep concern over the failure of the State Education Commissioner to propose and implement any reform strategy designed to sustain and advance the gains in student achievement made in recent years under the Abbott reforms.

For more information contact:
Theresa Luhm, Esq.
Managing Director
tluhm@edlawcenter.org