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IES Grant

Title: An Understudied Topic: School Board Deliberations on How Funds Are Spent
Center: NCER Year: 2023
Principal Investigator: Roza, Marguerite Awardee: Georgetown University
Program: Unsolicited and Other Awards      [Program Details]
Award Period: 1 year (10/1/2023 – 9/30/2024) Award Amount: $292,717
Type: Other Goal Award Number: R305U230001

Co-Principal Investigators: Anderson, Laura; Goldhaber, Dan

Purpose: In this project, the researchers will study school boards' deliberations on spending education funds and whether return-on-investment (ROI) training would change financial deliberations of school boards. The ROI training includes 8 hours of virtual modules that cover basic budgeting processes, managing vendor contracts against ROI, as well as cost and outcomes in budget tradeoffs, etc. The ROI training took place during fall or winter of the 2022–23 school year.

This 12-month project consists of 2 separate but interrelated studies. The first study answers the questions "What do school board financial deliberations look like?" and "What opportunities and barriers affect their role in financial decision-making?" The second study addresses the question "How do deliberations change for board members that have participated in training that involves exposure to an ROI framework that weighs financial tradeoffs, new data tools, and new deliberation processes?"

Project Activities:

  • Study 1 will produce a baseline analysis from observation of publicly available recorded budget meetings for 200 boards (before any training was conducted) to track whether or how frequently they use ROI-type or equity-type rationales or relevant outcomes data in financial decisions.
  • Study 2 will leverage a quasi-experiment to study whether participation in a training is associated with changes in board deliberations. The study will involve a second observation where half the boards have at least one member who has undergone training and the other half have no members who have undergone training. The researchers will use a difference-in-differences model to compare any change in budget deliberations to the control group of 100 matched boards where no members received training and produce a peer-reviewed report on the findings.

Products: The research team will identify barriers and inform opportunities to reframe school board deliberations going forward. Products include –

  • descriptive baseline analysis of school board member financial deliberations
  • a peer-reviewed research report examining any differences in financial deliberations and decision-making between boards trained in ROI and boards not trained in ROI
  • a published study dataset and coding tool such that the project could be duplicated and/or extended with other analyses
  • a financial decision-making framework for adoption by district leaders and school boards to reinforce desired behaviors and reduce typical barriers to integrating financial decisions with objectives for student outcomes.
  • presentations, articles, and blogs noting the barriers to and opportunities for increasing school board use of ROI strategies, data, and tools
  • revised free and publicly available training materials that help school board members connect spending and outcomes

Structured Abstract

Setting: The study setting is 400 school board meetings of 200 school districts across the United States. These school board meetings are pre-recorded and will be downloaded from websites of the 200 school districts.

Sample: The study sample comprises 200 local district boards grouped into matched pairs. The 100 treatment boards will be drawn from a pool of boards where one or more members have received training within a 10-month period. The control group will be matched to those in the treatment group on a variety of characteristics, including urbanicity, poverty rate, size, and geographic region. The first observation for all 200 boards will fuel the baseline analysis.

Intervention: The intervention is an 8-hour virtual training that involved exposure to an ROI framework that weighs financial tradeoffs, new data tools, and new deliberation processes. The delivery of the training had already taken place prior to the onset of this study.

Research Design and Methods: The research team will conduct observations of meetings and develop and use a coding tool to log relevant elements of school board financial deliberations. For study 1, the project will observe and analyze 200 school board meetings from the matched treatment-control pairs: 100 meetings pre-treatment from the treatment group and 100 meetings in a similar timeframe (2022) for the control group. For study 2, all districts will get a second observation (2023) after the treatment group had at least 1 member participate in finance training within the last 10 months. The project's total number of meetings analyzed will be 400.

Control Condition: The control condition is school boards and their members not receiving the ROI training. The control group will be selected from a pool of school boards using the propensity score matching algorithm.

Key Measures: The key measures of this project include school board financial deliberations and participation of ROI training.

Data Analytic Strategy: This project team will use a mixed-method approach that includes analysis of video-recorded school board meetings and quasi-experimental approach to examine whether participation in a training is associated with changes in board deliberations.