Wednesday, August 1, 2018

What WalletHub rankings say about Kansas school quality and funding

Among the most asked questions about Kansas public schools are: How good are they? How much does money matter in school quality? How efficiently are Kansas schools using the money they have?

The latest report from the personal finance website WalletHub provides an independent assessment of Kansas education. It confirms much of what has already been documented by KASB's research and other independent studies: Kansas ranks in the upper tier of states for K-12 education; higher achieving states are better funded, and Kansas schools are efficient, getting high returns for the money spent.

Kansas ranks high in educational quality In the 2018 WalletHub report just released, Kansas was ranked 15th in “overall quality of school system.” That compares to a rank of ninth in the latest KASB Comparing Kansas report, which will be released in full later this summer. There are important similarities and differences between methodologies used by KASB and WalletHub. KASB uses 15 measures of educational attainment, including graduation rates, national test scores and young adult educational attainment. WalletHub uses more subjective measures, some "inputs" like pupil-teacher ratio and teacher licensure, and several school safety measures. Details are provided below. Despite these differences, WalletHub's method ends up quite similar to KASB's results. There is a statistically very strong correlation of 0.816 between KASB's Comparing Kansas ranking and WalletHub. (1.0 is a perfect, one-to-one positive correlation; 0.0 is no correlation.) 

However, both reports indicate Kansas has been slipping. In 2014, WalletHub ranked Kansas fifth in the nation, although it is not clear if the same measures were applied. Likewise, KASB’s report has found that most states have been improving faster than Kansas on the 15 indicators used in the Comparing Kansas report. 

Top-ranked states provide more funding per pupil than low ranked states 

On average, the top achieving states in both KASB and WalletHub’s rankings spend more per pupil than low-achieving states. In fact, there is a generally consistent pattern that state educational rankings decline as per pupil funding declines, when looking at average spending by each group of ten states ranked from 1 to 50.

This information supports the conclusion of both Kansas educational costs studies and new national research that additional funding supports improved school outcomes. Kansas uses education resources efficiently. 

If education efficiency is characterized by good results for the money spent, Kansas is an “overachiever,” ranking relatively high while spending relatively low. The chart below from the WalletHub report shows Kansas grouped with seven other states as “Low in spending and strong school system.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Public Education Finances report for 2016, the most recent year available, Kansas ranked 30th in total revenue per pupil than Kansas. Of the 14 states ranked ahead of Kansas by WalletHub, only one, Colorado, provided less total funding. Of the eight states ranked ahead of Kansas on KASB’s report, none provided less total funding. 

This information is consistent with the most recent Kansas educational cost study, conducted this Spring by Dr. Lori Taylor and others, which found Kansas to have one of most efficient school systems the researchers had reviewed. Here are links to a summary of recent Kansas education cost studies and a report on the impact of funding on state student outcomes. 

How WalletHub and KASB use data to rank state school systems 

WalletHub uses the number of schools in the U.S. News and World Report designation of the top 700 schools in the U.S., adjusted for state population, and the number of U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon schools per capita. KASB does not use this data. 

WalletHub looks at High School Graduation Rate Among Low-Income Students, Projected High School Graduation Rate Increase Between 2017-2018 and 2031-2032 School Years, and Dropout Rate. KASB uses graduation rates for all students, low income students, students with disabilities and English Language Learners. WalletHub use National Assessment of Educational Progress test scores in reading and math for all students. KASB used NAEP scores at both the basic and proficient benchmarks for all students, low income students and non-low income students. (NAEP tests a small sample of students in grades four and eight.) 

WalletHub uses the share of 2017 High School Class Scoring “3” or Higher on Advanced Placement Exam. KASB does not use AP tests. WalletHub considers the state's median SAT Score and ACT Score, share of High School Graduates Who Completed ACT and/or SAT, and the Division of SAT and ACT Results by Percentile. KASB includes the percent of students testing scoring college ready on all four ACT benchmarks, the median SAT score, the percent of students tests by ACT and SAT, and the state's ranking in ACT and SAT scores compared the expected rank based on percent of students tested. 

WalletHub uses Pupil-Teacher Ratio and Share of Licensed/Certified Public K–12 Teachers by state. KASB uses only educational outcomes in its ranking.

Finally, 20 percent of WalletHub's ranking comes from 10 school safety factors, KASB does not include non-academic measures. 

State Rankings

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