Findings by AIR Experts Are at the Core of the Debate Over the Adequacy of New York Public School Funding

Washington, D.C. – Findings by experts for the American Institutes for Research is serving as the basis for information being used by leaders and the public in New York as they address the issue of adequate state funding for public school children.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Leland DeGrasse ruled that New York City schools must receive an annual increase of nearly $5.7 billion, along with $9.2 billion in capital projects in order for the state to provide “a sound, basic education.” His ruling was based upon the results of a 15-month study, “Determining the Cost of Providing All Children in New York an Adequate Education.”

Dr. Jay Chambers of AIR co-directed the study with Dr. Jim Smith of Management Analysis and Planning, Inc., a collaborative partner in the study. Dr. Tom Parrish of AIR worked with Dr. Smith to implement the professional judgment panels, while Drs. Chambers and Jesse Levin of AIR were responsible for designing and implementing the simulation models used for the cost analysis. Dr. Lori Taylor of Texas A&M University worked with AIR to develop the geographic cost adjustments used in the simulations.

An adequate education is defined as one that provides all students with an opportunity to meet the New York State Board of Regents Learning Standards. These standards were established in 1996 and are now the basis for exams that students must pass to receive a high school diploma and for exams to determine whether students in early grades are on track to pass the high school exams.

The Court of Appeals found the State of New York to be in violation of the New York State Constitution for its failure to ensure that the public schools of the City of New York received the funding necessary to provide their students with the constitutionally mandated opportunity for a sound basic education.

“There appears to be no dispute that the AIR/MAP researchers are respected leaders in the field of education finance. Two of the State’s witnesses, Drs. Finn and Palaich, recognized their experience in the field,” the judicial referees said in their Report and Recommendations. “S&P [Standard & Poor] and Dr. Palaich cited their writings as being ‘the best thinking and practice in the field of education finance.’”

Dr. Thomas Parrish, a managing director of AIR, testified as an expert witness before a Panel of Special Masters appointed by the court to reconcile findings from the competing studies conducted as a result of this case. He addressed questions about the findings of the AIR/MAP study and to provide comments on the methodology offered by the Standard & Poor’s (S&P) study of adequacy done for the State. Dr. Parrish raised questions about the arbitrary “efficiency” factors applied by the S&P study, and he expressed misgivings about the weighting system in general, citing that there were no nationally established weights to be used for poverty in an adequacy study.

The centerpiece of the study involved the use of Professional Judgment Panels, composed of highly qualified educators, to develop instructional models and to specify the resources necessary to implement these models.

Panel members were selected in part on the basis of nomination procedures and statistical analysis to identify schools found to be exceptionally successful given the students they were serving. These statistical analyses were also used to provide information on staffing in successful schools to the panels.

“We believe that the alternate methodology used to determine the cost of providing the opportunity for a sound basic education in the City of New York described in the AIR/MAP Study…when viewed as a whole, offers a reasonable alternate approach to a costing out analysis,” said judicial referees.

The American Institutes for Research, founded in 1946, is a leader in the behavioral and social sciences. AIR is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization engaged in domestic and international research, development, evaluation, analysis, product development, training and technical assistance and assessment.

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