TCAP, Poverty, and Investment in Schools

Recently, I wrote about the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment of Poverty, or TCAP. In that piece, I talked about how concentrated poverty combined with low investment in schools led to poor educational outcomes. I also mentioned how the broken BEP impacts districts because it is inadequate to meet the needs of Tennessee’s schools.

Now, I want to share the data I used to make those claims.

This data will show % of investment above BEP requirements, 3 year average ACT score (where applicable) and average TCAP scores.

The Top 10

District                % above BEP           3 yr ACT avg.             TCAP avg.

FSSD                   44.94%                     n/a                                63

Rogersville         19.83%                     n/a                                60

Newport             14.51%                      n/a                                62

Maryville            33.8%                      23.8                               65

Oak Ridge          37.23%                    23.1                               58

Williamson       20.5%                       22.9                             67

Greeneville      27.47%                      22.1                             58

Johnson City  26.77%                       22.1                             61

Kingsport        31.85%                       22                               59

Shelby              17.32%                       20.8                           58

AVERAGE    27.42%                    22.4                         61.1

The Top 10 districts in terms of student achievement invested nearly 28% above the BEP requirements and had an ACT average well above the state average.

The Bottom Ten

District          % above BEP          3 yr. ACT avg.              TCAP avg.

Lake                5.07%                       18.1                                 41

Union             4.91%                       17.9                                 45

Madison         14.22%                    17.9                                 46

Campbell       3.4%                        17.7                                  44

Haywood       6.48%                     17.5                                  41

Hardeman    11.58%                    17                                      46

Hancock       4.49%                     16.6                                   44

Memphis      19.15%                   16.4                                    38

Fayette         9.83%                    16.3                                     42

Humboldt   13.5%                     16.2                                    43

AVERAGE 9.26%                 17.16                                43

The bottom ten districts in terms of student performance invest less than 10% above the BEP formula and have an ACT average well below the state average.

The top 10 districts spend an average of 3 times more than the bottom 10 in terms of investment over the BEP formula. They also have an ACT average that is 5 points higher and a TCAP average that is nearly 20 points higher than the bottom ten.

Interestingly, even the bottom 10 districts spend just over 9% more than the BEP formula on average. That’s a sure sign that districts can’t run on the funds and funding levels established by the current BEP. The BEP is simply inadequate to meet Tennessee’s educational needs.

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9 thoughts on “TCAP, Poverty, and Investment in Schools

  1. Why not do the analysis on district per pupil spending per ADA vs. achievement?

    The former Memphis City and Davidson Co system are some of the highest spenders of all districts in the state, yet have much lower proficiency rates or ACT scores.

    If you compare Davidson Co with Williamson Co, (that touch each other), MNPS spends $11,452 per student according to the latest report card (it’s really more when you consider capital outlay spending). Williamson Co spends $8,587 per student.

    That’s a big difference.

    Certainly a different student population. I agree that TCAP achievement and poverty are correlated, but I don’t necessarily agree with the premise that simply more spending will yield higher student achievement.

    I do believe that to serve an ELL, SPED or ED student well, that’s logically going to require more resources and more spending per pupil than a non ELL, non SPED or non ED student.

    If you look within districts, there are some schools that have much higher spending than others, yet achievement at high spenders continues to lack other schools in the district (even when comparing two schools of the same % poverty).

    There has to be something about how the money is used.

    I think we need to spend a lot more time on spending ed money more effectively, both at the district level, and at an individual school level, rather than calling for more.

    • Hunter: I don’t think it is an either/or, I think it is a both/and. YES, we should absolutely be calling on districts to spend education dollars wisely and on what works. Many districts simply lack the resources to generate sufficient funds to effectively operate schools. Davidson has both high poverty in some areas and the ability to generate significant revenue. Hancock County has high poverty and no ability to generate revenue. It’s not JUST about more. But it certainly is important to provide baseline resources critical to success. Tennessee has tried some innovative approaches to education in recent years. I don’t agree with all of them, but some of them work and work well. Programs like teacher evaluation, RTI2, and even a new testing regimen aligned to TN standards require investment in order to make them work. For many rural districts, that investment, or a large part of it, has to come from the state or it won’t come at all. To that extent, the BEP is just not meeting the needs.

      • I of course agree that it’s important to provide a baseline, although what that number is I’m sure will carry different opinions.

        I also agree that state or federal mandates in education should be appropriately funded (or room to repurpose funding to meet the mandate).

        I appreciate your both/and view…it just seems that the public conversation is always most heavily focused on more funding…when we don’t really take the time to analyze what’s working now or not with the use of scarce public education dollars or really work to improve the efficiency of operational systems in education.

    • I agree that systems with students with greater needs require more BEP funds to meet those increased needs and provide a higher intensity of services. Just the comparison of Shelby vs. Memphis illustrates your point.

  2. Would we be able to look at other data on the top ten systems vs bottom ten systems, such as student ratio to teachers, teacher pay, etc? It would be interesting to see how the extra money was used to increase student achievement.

    • That’s a great question, Rorschach. Teacher pay would be fairly easy to determine. Ratios may be more difficult. Also relevant would be programmatic differences. For example, some districts may be investing above the BEP to provide additional mentoring/coaching for teachers. Other districts may invest to pay for additional physical education or related arts courses. But I agree, digging in to what the money goes to is important. I plan to write more on this topic and will include other data points as well.

      • Exactly. What are the ten most successful systems doing that others aren’t. We know they are putting in extra money, but how is that additional money making them successful?
        Hopefully, it can guide these other systems to be more successful and spend available money in a more effective and efficient way.

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