Date of Award

2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Education

First Advisor

Richard M. Ingersoll

Abstract

Financial and human capital resources play a vital role in the ability of a school to fulfill its mission of educating students. Access to these resources varies - and this variation is often due to districts' allocation of resources among schools. Research on equity often disregards this concern and focuses attention on differences among district-wide revenue sources. My dissertation explores the implications for equity of intradistrict resource allocation through an examination of school disparities and district practices in a mid-sized urban school district.

First, I establish a comprehensive equity framework which joins together principles of adequacy and vertical equity. Then, using financial, personnel, student enrollment/ demographic, and student achievement and behavior data from the Allentown, Pennsylvania School District (ASD), I employ a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods to ascertain how resources are directed to schools in accordance with the comprehensive equity framework. I describe resource allocation using horizontal equity statistics and I provide context by evaluating the relationship between student outcomes and attending a particular school. Subsequently, I test: adequacy, looking at school outcomes for the entire student population and various subgroups with higher needs; vertical equity, identifying how inputs are allocated differentially based on schools' characteristics and demographics; and, comprehensive equity, a construct incorporating both adequacy and vertical equity designed to measure the justness of the district's approach to resource allocation. I also measure the portion of resource allocation in unexplained by vertical and comprehensive equity and conduct a simulation of weighted student funding.

Qualitative analysis, comprised of interviews with district administrative personnel - at the central office and in schools - provides context and the rationale for district resource allocation policies. Overall findings uncover a misalignment between school-level student needs and resources in the ASD. Results are strongest when considering human capital resources, including teacher effectiveness and teacher efficacy. Based on my findings, I conclude that the ASD does not achieve comprehensive equity in school year 2009-2010. This case study provides a window into equal educational opportunity within school districts and offers a template for districts seeking to determine the extent to which they are serving students equitably.

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