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Making Money Matter: Financing America's Schools
committee evaluating the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) pointed out a number of dimensions of achievement not sufficiently reflected in the current NAEP frameworks and assessments: problem representation, use of strategies, self-regulatory skills, explanation, interpretation, and individual contributions to group problem solving (National Research Council, 1999a:138). Assessment systems employing multiple measures of achievement (i.e., large-scale tests augmented with alternative assessments) may be necessary to capture the range of outcomes comprising an adequate education. The recent NRC evaluation of NAEP discusses one approach to a multiple-measure assessment system (National Research Council, 1999a), but at present it is the case that "policy and public expectations of testing generally exceed the technical capacity of the tests themselves" (National Research Council, 1999b:30).
Despite the difficulties, however, adequacy litigation and legislation are beginning to define ranges of achievement levels and exposure to knowledge and skills that can serve as ends toward which to orient a practical school finance distribution system. The next challenge facing policy makers is to determine the costs of an acceptable instructional system oriented toward these objectives.
Determining the Costs of an Adequate Instructional Delivery System
In a perfect world, the determination of the costs of providing educational adequacy would take into account differences among individual students that affect their educational needs. Policy makers, however, cannot easily design a resource allocation program for individuals. They must instead concentrate on building finance systems, ideally with an eye to providing districts, local schools, and even classroom teachers with resources and inducements to tailor instruction to the specific characteristics of students. These systems may on occasion prove blunt when measured against individual student needs; the methods currently available will probably appear primitive down the road when more research and better data allow existing approaches to be refined.
Varying approaches to designing an instructional delivery system differ in crucial ways, both in how they assign costs and how they make reference to educational outcomes. States with early "adequacy" rulings (e.g., Washington, West Virginia, and Kentucky) have continued to rely on traditional legislative processes, which depend on political bargaining to make allocation decisions about educational inputs and leave the links between outcomes and the costs of an adequate instructional delivery system largely unspecified.
More recently, policy analysts and researchers have begun to explore several approaches for calculating the costs of adequacy that link outcomes and instructional delivery more explicitly: (1) inference from outcomes by statistical analysis; (2) inference from outcomes by empirical observation; (3) professional judgment; and (4) a market-oriented approach based on the development of whole-school designs that school districts can "buy." (More detail about these