What We Mean by “District-Level Supports”: Example 2–Funding Analysis

This year–as CCER began to expand its work to provide support to public school districts –we partnered with an urban school district serving more than 18,000 Connecticut students. Our plan was to support the District in re-thinking some of its core management systems (e.g. human capital, finance, data, operations, and governance) because we believe that school systems need to have high-quality, strategic systems in place if they are going to effectively implement strategies to raise student achievement.

Earlier this week, we posted a blog about how we provided this District with supports to transform its human capital system. In a second project with the District, CCER partnered with Education Resource Strategies (ERS) to analyze the District’s spending. Our objective here was to “hold a mirror” up to the District and provide a holistic picture of how it currently allocates its resources. The idea was that this information would help the District to make data-driven decisions about trade-offs so that it could fund its most important priorities and improve student achievement.

In order to do this work, ERS provided us with the tools and methodology to analyze the District’s spending and use comparable districts as benchmarks. We spent the summertime coding, coding, coding with our summer fellows—in order to establish a district-level chart of accounts, one that we could easily use to compare trends to other districts’ spending.

After that, we were able to analyze the funding data to highlight patterns in the District’s allocation of resources. We found some interesting trends. For instance: (a) because the District’s budget is set by central office, instead of schools, it has less principal autonomy than some comparable districts; (b) over 50% of the District’s teachers leave in less than four years; and (c) the District needs a strategic plan for funding professional development. (We think the last two are probably linked.)

Having only recently received our findings and recommendations, the District now has an opportunity to consider its own priorities and determine whether the trends in funding allocation are aligned with them or not. If not, maybe they should consider making some changes!

CCER is pleased to have been able to work with this district’s leaders to conduct a funding analysis and transform its human capital systems.

CCER’s services are free to Connecticut’s 30 lowest-performing districts. CCER is in the process of expanding our work. If you know of a Connecticut school district that would benefit from a similar analysis (or needs help with another core management system), please contact Scott Sugarman, Director of Education Transformation, at scott.sugarman@ctedreform.org.

Do you see how re-thinking districts’ core management systems can raise student achievement? Tell us your story on FB, or Tweet it with #SupportCTDistricts!