Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Why You Should Care about the Adequacy Study

As many of our Youth-Friendly DC readers know, this fall is a critical time for education reform in the District. We reported last spring that the Committee on Education was set to create quite a stir with a package of reform bills and this fall we will see the markups of most of those bills. There is also quite a bit going on at the executive level. Perhaps most importantly, the District is set to release the findings of its Adequacy Study which will have major implications for the amount of funding available to the District’s schools in the coming years and could drastically affect the various education reform bills put forth by the Committee on Education.

For those of you who haven’t heard much about the Adequacy Study, it is worth reading up on before its release. According to The Finance Project (who is conducting the study):

DC leaders want to study education "adequacy," in order to set parameters in the Uniform Per Student Funding Formula (UPSFF), so that all schools are assured of having a sufficient amount of funding -- where funding means enough money to provide a set of defined "inputs" in order to accomplish a defined set of educational "outcomes." Based on this definition, the DC Education Adequacy Study will specify relevant standards to measure student performance -- the objective levels of achievement that every student is expected to be able to meet, in addition to other desired student outcomes and input.

In plain language this means that the city wants and needs to know the true cost of educating students at various levels. It’s no secret that education reform has moved at a pace that many people find frustrating and the Adequacy Study is one of many steps being taken to ensure the city achieves the educational outcomes (higher proficiency rates, higher graduation rates) we all want for young people. It is important to remember, however, that the Adequacy Study is supposed to provide recommendations on both the foundation level per pupil and the additional weights assigned to different categories of students, and this goes well beyond educational levels.

Though the base (foundation) cost is of course an incredibly important factor when it comes to the final price tag of the study’s recommendations, the recommendations around what new categories do or do not get created  and the weights assigned to students or schools with high proportions of those students will also have major financial implications for the city. For example students from economically disadvantaged families currently do not receive an additional weight on top of the foundation funding level. The Adequacy Study could recommend that a category and accompanying weight be created to better support these students. For the sake of argument let's say it recommends that economically disadvantaged students receive an additional .50 weight on top of their foundation and educational level funding. That means that an economically disadvantaged 8th grader would bring about $14,300 in funding to whatever school they were enrolled in. However, if the Adequacy Study does not recommend that any new category or weight be created and simply recommends the base funding for all students be raised  that would give all schools more funding regardless of what type of students they enroll.

Clearly, there are hundreds of options to consider with weighting, categories and base funding amounts and the .50 weight was just one example of a recommendation that might be made. Its important to remember though, that as much as we would like to think no price is too high for quality education, the reality is the city only has so much money. While the Council and the Mayor do not have to follow every recommendation of the Adequacy Study, its recommendations will no doubt carry quite a bit of weight in deciding what and who gets more UPSFF dollars.

This reality makes its incredibly important for the youth serving and advocate community to provide input and comments to the Deputy Mayor’s office when the Adequacy Study recommendations are released and made available for public comment. Given that it has taken the city so long to revisit the true cost of educating District residents, it is imperative to ensure that the recommendations of the study are in line with what educators and providers know will best serve their student populations. The study is due to the Deputy Mayor for Education by the end of September, so time to provide feedback is fast approaching.

Anne Abbott is the Policy Analyst at DC Alliance of Youth Advocates. She manages the organizations youth workforce development and educational pathways policy and advocacy work. You can read past education testimonies from her and  members of the DCAYA coalition on the DCAYA website.  

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1 comment:

Art of Youth Development Practice said...
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