Special Report

Adequacy Studies: Interpretation

January 04, 2005 2 min read

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Return to the table, “Adequacy Studies.”

This table is not a comprehensive list of all adequacy studies conducted across the 50 states. Studies not listed generally only included school-level costs, were not statewide, or included only certain types of districts. Other studies not included were too old, or original reports were not available.

METHOD: In successful-schools studies, researchers select a group of schools or districts meeting a certain level of achievement, and then use the average expenditures of those schools as the basis for an adequate amount. A modified successful-schools study typically involves some measure of efficient spending for the schools or districts chosen. Professional-judgment studies gather a group of educators to develop an education program that will allow students to reach a certain level of achievement. The panel then determines the resources needed to implement that program. The evidence-based approach is based on a “proven effective” comprehensive school reform model (a significant point of debate), or a combination of research-based strategies, and determines the cost of an adequate education by calculating the cost of implementing those programs or strategies. The cost-function method uses a statistical analysis to determine the average cost associated with a certain desired level of student achievement, based on a district with average student characteristics.

COST TYPE: Base costs from the studies listed represent the estimated cost of resources required for the basic education program of prototype schools, assuming no additional accommodations for special student needs. Low costs represent the average expenditures of districts with low incidence of student demographics commonly associated with lower student achievement (e.g., the cost of outcomes in low-need districts). State mean costs represent the statewide average cost of educating students. Average district costs represent the cost of achieving adequate student outcomes in a district of average characteristics.

BASIC COST ESTIMATES: Basic cost estimates must be interpreted carefully. Because the achievement standards, methods, and assumptions of student demographics vary greatly across the different studies listed, these estimates are not directly comparable. Also, it is important to note that adequacy studies typically provide a complex listing of several estimates for the cost of an adequate education. The basic cost estimates listed here are just one estimate chosen from these studies. In general, they are the base costs of a large K-12 district. Basic cost estimates were adjusted to reflect 2004 dollars using the Employment Cost Index (ECI) of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

ADJUSTED COST ESTIMATES: Costs were adjusted for regional variations in price, using state average prices (weighted by district enrollment) generated from the NCES Geographic Cost of Education Index.