Chamber Schools Study: Smaller Districts Struggling
A new comprehensive study shows many of Indiana's school corporations are too small to produce the most effective outcomes for their students. The research, commissioned by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce Foundation and conducted by Ball State University's Center for Business and Economic Research, shows school corporation size has a direct impact on student achievement. In addition to higher test scores and passing rates, Chamber President Kevin Brinegar says larger districts are able to offer more high-level classes to prepare students for college and careers.
According to the study, corporations with between 2,000 and 2,999 students report higher SAT scores (+20.5 points), Advanced Placement pass rates (+14.9 percent), eighth grade ISTEP scores (+5 percent) and algebra and biology end of course assessment pass rates (+4 percent).
Brinegar says the problem is only getting worse for small districts. In 2014, 154 of Indiana's 289 school corporations had total enrollments of less than 2,000 students. Between 2006 and 2014, 85 of those districts reported enrollment declines of 100 or more students. The majority of those smaller districts are adjacent to another. Because of that, Brinegar says, mergers "clearly need to be on the table."
“This is not about closing buildings or eliminating schools," says Brinegar. “With today’s fierce competition for talent, too many young people in our state are suffering due to inadequate preparation for postsecondary education or the workforce. The data show smaller corporations are getting smaller. In many instances, it’s already too difficult for them to overcome the challenges of limited resources.”
He says, without action, small districts will continue to get smaller. Another consequence of that is the difficulty in offering high-level courses for many small districts. AP courses are often a pre-requisite for students looking to pursue STEM majors in college. According to the study, corporations with fewer than 1,000 students offered an average of 2.69 AP courses in 2015, less than half offered by districts with more than 2,000 students.
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