distribution formula. Whatever this per-pupil minimum spending amount, it has then been presumed to be adequate. As Minorini and Sugarman (see Chapter 6, page 190, in this volume) note, "almost nowhere could it plausibly be shown that the actual minimum foundation plan level … had been determined as a result of a genuine statewide appraisal [of what is actually necessary to fund an 'adequate' education]." Some states, however, have relied on alternative definitions of adequate inputs, such as teacher certification requirements, state textbook selection, and class size or pupil-teacher maxima. The "foundation" has been intended to ensure that there is no systematic underinvestment in schooling within a state.

Foundation-related, per-pupil revenue levels have been questioned politically and legally for three decades, since Coons et al. and Wise formulated legal challenges based on the United States Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause (Coons et al., 1970; Wise, 1968). However, it was initially a foundation program's statewide per-pupil revenue distributional equity which came under scrutiny, not the adequacy of that spending level. The legal assaults of the last three decades were mostly intended to ensure that state-authorized spending levels, be they adequate or inadequate, were at least equally accessible to local school districts. But recently, the focus has broadened.

Modern Adequacy: Technically Defined and Outcome Oriented

The evolving concept of "adequacy" suggests that something beyond equity is at issue. The "something else" is a notion of sufficiency, a per-pupil resource amount sufficient to achieve some performance objective. Thus, adequacy is increasingly being defined by the outcomes produced by school inputs, not by the inputs alone. Clune contends that as the nation increasingly debates means for obtaining higher levels of student academic performance, the policy debate is beginning to shift away from "equity" and toward means for ensuring that students receive resources enabling them to learn to higher standards. Thus, adequacy deliberations sometimes are bundled with quests for ''opportunity standards" (Porter, 1993). "Delivery standards" is another related idea asserting that pupils and schools cannot fairly be held accountable for performance unless there is first an assurance that the levels of available resources are adequate and that students are appropriately exposed to the knowledge they are expected to master.

Definitional Challenges: Identifying Anchors For "Adequate"

If adequate is to have a meaning beyond what is assigned to it via a set of political decisions about revenue availability, then a judgment has to be made about expected ends to be achieved, some level of accomplishment or performance. Adequate to do what? Adequate how? Adequate for what purpose?

Responding to these queries necessitates at least a twofold policy judgment

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement