Spending patterns, equity and achievement in districts using weighted student funding
Edunomics Lab led a three-year study funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, titled “How do Spending Patterns Change with Weighted Student Funding (WSF), and What’s Happening to Equity and Achievement, Particularly for Poor and At-Risk Students?”
Over the last two decades, many large school districts across the United States have shifted away from deploying resources to schools based on uniform staffing formulas to allocating funds to schools based on the particular mix of students in the building. This emerging new allocation strategy is known as weighted student funding (WSF) or student-based allocation. Districts using WSF deploy a fixed-dollar amount to schools for each student type, with larger increments going to students identified as having greater needs (including students with limited English proficiency or disabilities, or who come from households in poverty).
The dual purpose of this exploratory study is to better understand the landscape of WSF designs and the scope of features that are in place in those designs; and determine the extent to which WSF designs are associated with differences in student outcomes and a reduction in achievement gaps among student types. Our research focused on these key questions:
- Why do districts adopt WSF?
- Is there a typical WSF model that districts are using?
- Do WSF districts spend more on at-risk students?
- Are principals taking a financial leadership role in WSF districts?
- What about outcomes? Are achievement gaps narrowing in WSF districts?
- What about equity, outcomes, and achievement gaps in a WSF state?
The research reported here was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305A170348 to Georgetown University. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.
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