K-12 research roundup: Personalized learning, school revenue and high school credentials

Current research examines issues in K-12 education, including digital learning policies, high school student credential attainment, and per-pupil spending in U.S. school districts
By: | May 28, 2019
From finding spending increases in some of the largest public school districts to examining the landscape of high school student credential attainment, this roundup covers new developments in K-12 research. (gettyimages.com: FatCamera)From finding spending increases in some of the largest public school districts to examining the landscape of high school student credential attainment, this roundup covers new developments in K-12 research. (gettyimages.com: FatCamera)

Report: Four districts see 30% increase in per-pupil spending

A recent report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) shows spending increased in some of the largest public school districts.

In fiscal year 2016, expenditures per student in the 100 largest public school districts ranged from a low of $6,175 in Utah’s Jordan School District to a high of $24,109 in New York City School District, the report shows.

In addition to New York City School District, current expenditures per pupil were about 30% higher than the national average of $11,669 in:

  • Boston City Schools ($22,082)
  • Howard County Public School System in Maryland ($15,476)
  • Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland ($15,195)

Median current expenditures per pupil in independent charter school districts were lower than median current expenditures per pupil in noncharter school districts and 21 districts that include both charter and noncharter schools.

The report uses data from the provisional School District Finance Survey data file that state education agencies submit to NCES each year. It includes information about revenues and expenditures in the nation’s public school districts for the 2015-16 school year.


Analysts urge policymakers to improve digital learning policies

Personalized learning is becoming increasingly popular. But some observers believe there is little guidance and few constraints to technology adoption despite mounting pressure to implement digital tools and online programs.

A history of personalized learning and its key tenets are explored in “Personalized Learning and the Digital Privatization of Curriculum and Teaching.”


Read: Washington Watch: State edtech training grows


In the paper, analysts review existing evidence of digital technologies. The authors also recommend that schools and policymakers pause efforts to promote and implement personalized learning until rigorous review, oversight and enforcement mechanisms have been established.

The study was sponsored by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice and the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.


Study examines landscape of high school student credential attainment

No state possesses career education credentials that are “highly aligned” with the job market, while only 28 states collect quantitative data on the attainment of credentials, which can determine whether they are aligned with employer needs, according to research by ExcelinEd and Burning Glass Technologies.

The “Credentials Matter report looks to shed light on the landscape of industry credential data collection and alignment across the country, and inform policy. The paper illustrates the credentials available in high school, and highlights how credential attainment impacts career pathways and leads to middle- and high-wage employment opportunities and continued advancement for students.

Key findings in the report include:

  • States do not have consistent definitions for what constitutes an industry-recognized credential.  
  • Many credentials are not explicitly requested in employer job listings, even if credentials are required or desired for the position.

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