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IES Grant

Title: Does School-Level Fiscal Flexibility Reduce Inequality in Student Achievement? New Evidence From Title I
Center: NCER Year: 2020
Principal Investigator: Tanner, Patrick Sean Awardee: WestEd
Program: Improving Education Systems      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (07/01/2020 - 06/30/2023) Award Amount: $700,000
Type: Efficacy Award Number: R305A200126

Co-Principal Investigator: Johnson, Rucker C.

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to evaluate the impacts of fiscal flexibility (namely, the ability to spend compensatory revenue school-wide rather than targeted to specific students) on student achievement and attainment. Mounting research evidence shows that increases in school spending in kindergarten through 12th grade settings (K–12) leads to significant improvements in student academic success, as well as subsequent adult socioeconomic accomplishment. However, concerns remain over how much autonomy schools should be given over how to use compensatory funding aimed at bolstering the success of the lowest performing students. Currently, the Schoolwide Program (SWP) component of Title I allows higher poverty schools to spend their Title I revenue school-wide rather than targeted only for at-risk students.

Project Activities: Researchers will complete a series of secondary data analyses using a regression discontinuity design to assess the effects of fiscal flexibility on student achievement and other outcomes.

Products: Researchers will produce evidence of the impact of fiscal flexibility on student outcomes. The team will also produce peer-reviewed publications and documentation for how to access the extant data used, along with the code used by the researchers.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The intervention being assessed, the Title I Part A Schoolwide Program, operates in Title I-eligible, regular, public primary and secondary schools with moderate to high poverty rates nationwide.

Sample: The analysis population is the census of regular, public primary and secondary school in the United States.

Intervention: The Title I Part A Schoolwide Program allows schools to use the Title I funding school-wide, rather than targeted for students at greatest risk of academic failure.

Control Condition: The control condition is a targeted assistance program, in which schools must direct expenditures only to those students at risk of academic failure.

Research Design and Methods: The secondary data analysis will be a retrospective regression discontinuity design that leverages a fuzzy discontinuity in program eligibility at the 40% school poverty rate. This analytic approach will permit the researchers to make causal claims as to the effect of fiscal flexibility on student achievement and other outcomes as described below.

Key Measures: While the primary focus will be on high school graduation and student performance on standardized tests of literacy and numeracy, newly available school-level data from the Office of Civil Rights will allow the analysis to include outcomes such as on-time grade progression, enrollment in and completion of college preparatory courses, and school-level expenditures.

Data Analytic Strategy: Using a regression discontinuity design, the research team will exploit the eligibility threshold in order to make causal claims about the effect of fiscal flexibility on student achievement and other outcomes of interest. The preferred model is a fuzzy, comparative regression discontinuity with multiple running variables. The two-stage least squares routine will contain multiple instruments to predict two endogenous treatments: length of time spent in a school-wide program and a binary indicator for having ever run a school-wide program.