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IES Grant

Title: How do Spending Patterns Change with Weighted Student Funding (WSF), and What's Happening to Equity and Achievement, Particularly for Poor and At-Risk Students?
Center: NCER Year: 2017
Principal Investigator: Roza, Marguerite Awardee: Georgetown University
Program: Improving Education Systems      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (08/01/2017–07/31/2020) Award Amount: $1,300,069
Type: Exploration Award Number: R305A170348

Purpose: Over the last two decades, many large school districts across the United States have shifted away from deploying resources to schools based on uniform staffing formulas to allocating funds to schools based on the particular mix of students in the building. This emerging new allocation strategy is known as weighted student funding (WSF) or student-based allocation. Districts using WSF deploy a fixed-dollar amount to schools for each student type with larger increments going to students identified as having greater needs (including students with limited English proficiency, disabilities, or who come from households in poverty). The dual purpose of this exploratory study is to better understand the landscape of WSF designs and the scope of features that are in place in those designs; and determine the extent to which WSF designs are associated with differences in student outcomes and a reduction in achievement gaps among student types.

Project Activities: This study is designed to produce a set of descriptive data on WSF implementation and to identify relationships between WSF implementation and student achievement. Researchers will begin by using descriptive analysis to assemble the base level knowledge needed to categorize and test types of WSF models. With that information, researchers will then investigate the relationship between WSF (including different design elements) and student outcomes. The research team will also conduct a comprehensive financial analysis of WSF districts, in order to reveal the degree to which WSF is delivering on its aim of increased equity and resources for poor and at-risk students.

Products: Researchers will produce study briefs as well as articles for peer-review journals. The research team will also disseminate information to policymakers and practitioners through online mailing lists and the Edunomics Lab website.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study includes 25–30 large, urban districts in the United States that are using WSF, as well as 200 non-WSF districts. In addition, researchers will conduct a case study of WSF implementation in California to explore implementation of the model at the state level.

Sample:   All local education agencies, schools and students in the WSF and non-WSF districts chosen for the study.

Intervention:  The study explores district- and state-level implementation of weighted student funding (WSF) strategies. While WSF is often discussed as if it were a single model, in practice, school systems operationalize WSF in myriad ways, such as varying what student characteristics are weighted in their formulas, the magnitude of weights, the percentage of funds that are funneled through the WSF formula, and the flexibilities that accompany the funds.

Research Design and Methods: Researchers will conduct a survey of WSF district and school staff on the nature of the WSF, its features, the range of flexibilities awarded to schools, and any barriers facing districts using the financial strategy. Researchers will also collect publicly available school-level and district-level financial data, demographic data, and student achievement data. Researchers will then conduct descriptive and financial analyses of WSF implementation. In addition, researchers will use time series analyses to investigate the relationship between WSF (including different design elements) and student academic outcomes.

Control Condition: School districts that do not use weighted student funding models.

Key Measures: Measures include school level amount and portion of education funding for poor and at-risk kids, formula weights and types of students identified, and changes in achievement and achievement gaps on state standardized tests.

Data Analytic Strategy: The study includes descriptive financial analytics and pattern analysis of survey and district indicators. In addition, researchers will conduct time series analyses to examine the relationship between the implementation of WSF (and/or specific features of WSF) and student outcomes; and changes in achievement gaps in California districts before and after the implementation of WSF state-wide (the malleable factor).