Eugene Paslov: Money makes a difference

For those who believe there is no relationship between funding and student performance, think again. At the Assembly Education meeting on Feb. 9, the Education Alliance of Washoe County presented their study, "Crisis in Nevada, Education, and the Economy." It was a showstopper.

Those of us involved in education for long periods of time have observed a positive relationship between the amount of money spent on education and student outcomes, although it is not a perfect correlation. (Isn't it interesting that the " money doesn't make a difference" crowd generally do not send their children to poorly funded schools). However, relationships of student achievement to funding have been elusive.

I was involved in the early "cost of effectiveness" research studies in the '70s in Michigan. The metrics we used were not sophisticated enough to give us discrete measures. The teaching methods were not definitive enough to cover units of learning as measurable entities. Some positive results, but inconclusive.

In recent decades, however, we have learned more, have developed more sophisticated testing instruments. Now we are able to record, reliably, student achievement data statewide and internationally. The general conclusion: money spent on teaching and learning is an important component of effective education. Less money usually means poorer performance.

Now The Education Alliance of Washoe County has presented an elegant research study at the assembly education hearing. It demonstrated the statistical relationship between student performance and educational expenditures, as well as highlighting other economic factors.

Alliance President Jim Pfrommer, an alliance officer, Ginny Jackson, and past director Anne Lorning, all did an excellent job. Ms. Lorning has been on the Washoe County School Board and has been an articulate, forceful spokesperson for Washoe schools for decades. She is a trained geologist and is knowledgeable, careful, fair and thorough when presenting research data.

A few of the Alliances' findings:

• Nevada's student achievement (all groups) lag the nation.

• Student group achievement gaps still exist.

• Funding contributes to student performance - when compared with similar states, Nevada provides less funding for its K-12 school system and gets poorer results.

• Of 100 high school freshmen in Nevada, only 10 will earn a college degree within 10 years. This is half the national average.

• Funding contributes to student performance.

The Alliance White Paper can be found on www.Ed-Alliance.org.

I recommend the Legislature and governor review this study and support its proposed solutions. Some will cost money. Some will not. It is an invaluable piece of research. The alliance members are suggesting a difficult road, and "it is the road less traveled," at least in Nevada. "Let's roll."

• Eugene Paslov is a board member of the Davidson Academy at the University of Nevada, Reno, and the former Nevada superintendent of schools.

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