New York Public Schools Step Up to Challenge of Higher Standards
UAlbany survey reveals 60 percent increase in per-pupil spending between 1980 and 2000

Contact: Karl Luntta (518) 437-4981; cell (518) 265-4114

ALBANY, N.Y. (January 10, 2003) -- Two reports on the state of New York's public schools issued by the University at Albany's Education Finance Research Consortium (EFRC), based at the Center for Policy Research, claim that state schools have responded positively to higher education standards by increasing both the numbers of certified teaching staff and relative spending on pupils.

In "How Have Performance Standards Changed School District Practice? Results from a Statewide Survey," authors Kieran Killeen, an assistant professor at the University of Vermont, and John Sipple of Cornell University surveyed superintendents and principals outside New York City about school district responses to New York's higher learning standards. A majority (77 percent) reported increases in the numbers of certified teaching staff and in the amount of time spent on professional staff development. Many also noted increased specialized attention to low-performing students by way of academic intervention services and a greater number of special needs students being taught in "core" education classes. Relatively few administrators reported increases in dropout rates, though some noted more students are transferring to General Education Development (GED) Programs, perhaps as a means for districts to keep students in school. The authors found that some programmatic decisions are influenced heavily by principals and superintendents, others by teachers, and others still by Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) or the state; the relative influence of these agents varies with the wealth, geography and performance of students in the districts.

In "School District Expenditures and Fiscal Stress," authors Don Boyd and UAlbany professors Hamp Lankford and Jim Wyckoff examine the 60 percent increase in real per-pupil spending in New York's public schools between 1980 and 2000. The authors found an increase in spending on special education relative to regular education - attributed in part to New York State school districts' attempts to meet the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Board of Regents' directive to include all students in the new learning standards.

The authors also examined school district behavior during times of fiscal stress, when state funds available to school districts are low and schools face potential budget cuts. They found that schools with larger unrestricted fund balances (savings not held for a specific purpose) maintain more stable teaching expenditures than low-balance districts, possibly due to the use of the funds to make up for budget shortfalls. In turn, this might mean more stable education services for students, though the available data did not allow the authors to examine this point.

The authors described their research on fiscal stress as preliminary but state that it has "important implications for spending, and thereby, the education students receive."

Boyd, Lankford and Wyckoff have been studying the complex relationship between educational funding and student performance since the early 1990s. Wyckoff, an associate professor of public administration and policy, directs the Education Finance Research Consortium. Lankford is an associate professor of economics. Boyd contributed to the study while at the Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany, but now works on education policy studies with Lankford and Wyckoff through the UAlbany's Center for Policy Research.

For the full text of these and other EFRC education research reports and related information, visit the Education Finance Research Consortium at http://www.albany.edu/edfin.

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