Friday, December 20, 2019

URSP Student Melissa Alberto Creates own Dataset and Analysis to Give Stakeholders a Perspective for what Districts need more Funding Over Time

Growing up and attending school in one of the most affluent counties in the country, I never realized that my educational experience was one of privilege and opportunity. However, during my senior year of high school, I began to take note of the educational disparities even within my own school. It was these noticeable trends that interested me in researching equity and adequacy within the American education system while in college. Building on my freshman Honors College project, which was focused on the effects of teacher quality on the achievement among minority students post-No Child Left Behind, I am now analyzing school funding across the Commonwealth of Virginia with my OSCAR URSP project. Since Virginia is one of very few states that has not implemented any major school finance reform in the past 25 years, my project is focused on preliminary financial analysis that would be necessary in addressing the issues of equity in funding. Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics, I created my own data set that includes demographics, revenue, expenditure, and achievement data on all school districts within the Commonwealth from 1995 to 2016. With my data set, I will be able to analyze relevant analyses on several relationships that are important in answering my research question such as the association between amount of revenue from different levels on per-pupil spending and the associations between the demographic make-up of a districts, its free/reduced lunch participation, diploma completion and per-pupil spending. Ultimately, my hope is for this project to serve as a foundation for change to school funding in Virginia.

While Virginia has shielded itself from school finance litigation, it is still pertinent to understand that the funding model still contributes to inequities among each district. The analyses that I will be conducting will give stakeholders a perspective into what districts need more funding and an understanding into the overall trends across a long period of time. This is an imperative first step in addressing the issues of inequity and adequacy in Virginia. While this semester I have been able to complete much of the preliminary analysis, specifically noticing any trends between revenue, expenditures, demographics, and achievement, I hope to further develop this project beyond my time with the OSCAR URSP. Having Former Secretary of Education Anne Holton as my advisor has not only allowed me the necessary insight into formulating and executing this project, but also provided me supplementary resources such as connections with other Mason professors and colleagues has been an invaluable experience. Calling Virginia home has always made me so proud and doing my part to improve it in a small way will be an honor.