Parallel Lives, Different Outcomes – A Twin Study of Academic Productivity in U.S. School Districts

Source: Robert Hanna and Bo Morris III, Center for American Progress, July 2014

From the summary:
…This paper applies a similar type of research methodology to explore what happens to similar groups of children educated in different school districts. In this case, our “twins” are groups of students who live in the same state in similar geographies and who share certain demographic characteristics. For this report, “twin districts” have very similar sizes and they have the following in common:

• The proportion of students who are from low-income families
• The proportion of students who have limited English proficiency or are English language learners
• The proportion of students who receive instruction through individualized educational programs

Our twin districts, however, differ in terms of student achievement and per-pupil spending.

The goal of this paper was to study twin districts and use the data culled to provide recommendations for how districts can best leverage their school funding investments—in other words, achieve a bigger bang for their educational buck….

Based on our in-depth look at twin districts and our subsequent analysis of the data, we came away with the following findings:
When it comes to education, spending does not always equal results. ….
There are significant funding inequities between demographically similar districts. ….
Districts have limited control over their own expenditures. ….