Research and Reports
School systems that could least afford it were hit hardest during the first year of Proposition 2, the Massachusetts tax-limitation measure, according to a researcher from Lehigh University.
With support from the National Science Foundation, Edward P. Morgan, a former director of the Massachusetts commission on unequal educational opportunity, examined the fiscal 1982 education budgets of all Massachusetts cities, towns, and school districts.
The researcher, now an associate professor of government at Lehigh, found that two kinds of communities were most likely to enact large cuts in their school budgets: districts where enrollments had declined sharply in the years preceding Proposition 2 and urban communities with relatively low property wealth, high property-tax rates, and high fixed costs. Budget-cutting was also more pronounced in districts where public participation in policy decisions was limited, he found.
Mr. Morgan also examined the nature of the budget cuts and discovered that teacher layoffs were most common in industrial cities and oth-er areas with low property wealth. Instructional budgets were most often cut in fiscally stressed districts with declining enrollments, particularly those in which budget decisions are made by town councils rather than in town meetings.
"The data suggest that Massachusetts, which has one of the least equitable school-funding systems in the nation, will become even less equitable in the absence of equalizing state aid," Mr. Morgan concluded. "In addition, it appears that the most substantial cuts in fiscal year 1983 will be made in the fiscally stressed cities, which usually serve greater numbers of disadvantaged or educationally needy pupils."
For copies of a paper based on the research, contact Mr. Morgan at 308 Maginnes Hall #9, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pa. 18015.
What's in a name? A possible key to receiving high grades on essay tests, for one thing, according to a study conducted recently by Clinton I. Chase, an education professor at Indiana University.
He found evidence that scores on essay tests are affected by a whole flock of variables that are not related to the content of the answers. Names make a difference; Kim and Julie are more likely to receive higher marks than Ethel or Maude. Neatness does count; the quality of the handwriting and grammar affect the test scores regardless of the content of the answer.
Somewhat more ominously, however, Mr. Chase also reports that the position of the test in the pile that the teacher is grading also affects the score. Those on the bottom of the heap on the table are more likely to end up at the top of the bell curve.
Not only will several competent people grade the same test differently, the same person will give the same test two scores if he reads it on two separate occasions, according to a summary of the research issued by the university.
Students, however, can take steps to minimize the effects of these factors, Mr. Chase suggests. Since teachers do tend to grade higher as they work their way through the stack, students should try to get their paper on the bottom, and, presumably, hope that the teacher does not habitually reverse the pile before he begins to grade.
If the instructor thinks you are a poor student, write very neatly. Also, use short sentences and avoid multi-syllabic adjectives, Mr. Chase advises.