Higher Funding Linked to Higher College Readiness

Higher Funding Linked to Higher College Readiness

Despite claims by some that the amount of education funding makes no difference in achievement, ACT test data shows states with more students reaching college ready benchmarks tend to spend more money per pupil than Kansas, and states spending less produce fewer college ready students.

An example of arguments against the link between funding levels and achievement is a former member of the State Board of Education, Walt Chappell of Wichita, who filed an amicus brief in the Gannon school finance lawsuit scheduled for argument before the Kansas Supreme Court next month.  “There’s no evidence that increased funding has a direct correlation with higher scores on national tests,” he writes. “Likewise, the reasons that more than 25% of Kansas students drop out before graduation or that over a third of those who attend college need remediation has nothing to do with a lack of money appropriated by the State legislature.”

To examine this issue, the table below compares the percentage of students who took the ACT program this year and met college readiness benchmarks on all four subject areas tested (English, Reading, Math and Science).  To provide a meaningful comparison to Kansas, where 75% of students took the test, we reviewed only states that tested between 66 and 84 percent if graduates.

Thirty percent of Kansas students tested met the ACT benchmarks in all four subjects.  The percentage of students meeting the “college ready” benchmark in individual subjects is much higher: 72% in English, 51% in Math, 51% in Reading and 42% in Science.

Five states had a higher percentage at benchmark in all four subjects than Kansas, ranging from 39% in Minnesota to 31% in Ohio.  All but one of these states had higher “current spending” per pupil than Kansas in 2011, the latest year national data is available.  The per pupil average of the five states with more than 30% of students college-ready on all four subjects was $10,480, or almost $1,000 than Kansas ($9,489).

Three states (Nebraska, Missouri and Montana) had 28% of students meeting all four benchmarks, which was 2% lower than Kansas.  Nebraska and Missouri spent over $1,000 more per student Kansas. Missouri spent slightly less.

Finally, four states had fewer than 25% of students “college ready” in all four subjects, ranging from 23% to 19%.  The average spending per pupil in these states is $8,589, almost $1,000 less than Kansas and almost $2,000 less than the top five states.

KASB focused on these 13 states because the percentage of high school graduates tested was within 10 points of the Kansas testing percentage.  In 12 states, at least 90% of graduates took the ACT test, which tends to result in lower proficiency rates, because almost the entire graduating class, not just “college bound” students, participated.  None of these states had more than 25% of students tested meeting the college-ready benchmarks in all four subjects.

In four other states, between 50% and 63% of students were tested by the ACT. In most other states, the majority of high school graduates took the SAT test, not the ACT.