Poster Paper: Examining Productivity in Rural Education

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Exhibit Hall C - Exhibit Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Matthew Finster1, Anthony Milanowski2, Ning Rui1 and Victoria Schaefer1, (1)Westat, (2)Education Analytics, Inc

It has been asserted that rural schools perform similarly or better than their urban counterparts despite similar levels of poverty (e.g., Fan & Chen, 1999; Howley, 2003). However, one limitation of much of the existing research comparing rural and non-rural student achievement is that many of the studies compare student achievement levels without considering prior achievement levels. Because student achievement levels are highly correlated with socio-economic status and prior achievement, a more valid comparison of school productivity between rural and non-rural districts would involve using value-added (VA) measures of student achievement, which can better estimate the contribution of the school to student learning. The present study contributes to our understanding of the relative effectiveness of rural schools by using VA estimates of schools from Wisconsin school report card files to explore both the differences between rural and non-rural schools and the extent that school- and district-level factors may explain school productivity levels. To compare the performance of rural and non-rural schools, we conduct ANOVA tests, and to examine the extent that school- and district-level factors may predict school VA scores, we conduct multilevel regression analysis. The results indicate that after controlling for student characteristics and other school factors, such as size, there was no difference across locales in school VA in Wisconsin. Thus in Wisconsin there was no evidence that rural schools were any more or less productive, in the sense of contributing to higher student achievement given similar student characteristics, than schools in other locales. Besides prior year percent proficient or above, none of the other school-level factors included in the models were consistently related to school VA, including school size, student/staff ratio, and the proportion of teachers with less than five years of experience. District-level cost per pupil also had no significant relationship to school VA. These results are consistent with research that that concludes that there is not a strong relationship between easily-measured school and district resource factors and school productivity (e.g., Hanushek, 1997).