Indiana Chamber-Ball State Study: Student Performance Suffers in Smaller Districts

School corporation size has a direct impact on student achievement. And more than half of Indiana school corporations are too small to produce the most effective outcomes, according to research commissioned by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce Foundation and conducted by the Ball State University Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER).

Numerous earlier studies, both nationally and by CBER, found that school corporations with fewer than 2,000 students are not able to operate at optimal efficiency to maximize resources going into the classroom. This new study – School Corporation Size & Student Performance: Evidence from Indiana – (full report and Appendix available at also documents significantly poorer academic performance, on average, for students from these smaller corporations. Comprehensive analysis and modeling reveals the following improved outcomes if school corporations contain between 2,000 and 2,999 students:

  • SAT test scores (+20.5 points)
  • Advanced Placement (AP) pass rates (+14.9%)
  • Eighth-grade ISTEP scores (+5%)
  • Algebra and biology end of course assessment (ECA) pass rates (+4%)

“This is not about closing buildings or eliminating schools,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “It’s about reducing per-pupil administrative costs to put more money into classrooms, increasing pay for deserving teachers, making more STEM classes available and, most importantly, helping ensure the best possible student outcomes.

“That will drive per capita income and is especially critical for smaller communities,” he continues. “Greater student achievement is the biggest thing we can do for rural economic development and those local residents.”

In 2014, 154 of Indiana’s 289 school corporations had total enrollments of less than 2,000 students. Eighty-five of those corporations experienced enrollment declines of 100 or more students between 2006 and 2014.

Only 21 of Indiana’s 92 counties have a single school corporation. Twenty-two counties have three corporations, 19 have two corporations and 13 have four corporations. The most corporations in a single county are 16 in Lake County and 11 in Marion County.

“With today’s fierce competition for talent, too many young people in our state are suffering due to inadequate preparation for postsecondary education or the workforce,” Brinegar adds. “The data show smaller corporations are getting smaller. In many instances, it’s already too difficult for them to overcome the challenges of limited resources.”

Ball State researchers took into account demographic and socioeconomic factors. For example, the average SAT score of 949.5 in the smallest corporations (between 240 and 999 students) compares to a 989.8 average in corporations with between 2,000 and 2,999 students. Even when economic differences between corporations are factored in, that 40-point raw gap remains at more than 20.5 points.

AP course offerings are one indicator of preparation for higher education, with higher-level math and science courses often a pre-requisite for pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors. Corporations with fewer than 1,000 students offered an average of 2.69 AP courses with enrollment of 8.53 students in 2015. That compares to 5.95 offerings and 22.26 students for corporations with between 2,000 and 2,999 students and even more courses and student participants in larger school districts.

The research reveals “94% of Indiana’s small school corporations (fewer than 2,000 students) are contiguous with another small corporation.”

North Central Parke Community School Corp. was created in 2013 by the merger of the Rockville and Turkey Run school districts. Parke County continues to lose population and district enrollment for the most recent school year was only 1,200. In April, the school board voted to combine (within two years) into one high school and one middle school.

“It’s hard to operate a comprehensive academic program” with so few students, district superintendent Tom Rohr said at the time of the most recent vote. “That’s really … a driving force. Our teachers have gotten behind this. They are saying, ‘Let’s do what is best for kids.’”

Evaluating the Workplace Seating Chart

10061396After reading the following, people may start thinking about what category they fit in. And managers might consider some potential changes. The conclusions come from Harvard Business School researchers.

Placing the right mix of workers in close proximity to each other can generate up to a 15% increase in organizational performance, according to a study from Cornerstone OnDemand.

The researchers determined that there are three types of employees: productive, generalist and quality. Productive workers get work done quickly, but they don’t necessarily get it done well. Quality workers produce stellar work, but they’re not the most productive people in the office. And generalist employees are average in terms of both productivity and quality.

The study’s authors found that the impact on productivity and effectiveness is most pronounced when employees who are strong in one area but weak in another sit near each other. Specifically, seating “productive” and “quality” workers together and seating “generalists” separately in their own group shows a 13% gain in productivity and a 17% gain in effectiveness. “In short, symbiotic relationships are created from pairing those with opposite strengths,” the study’s authors wrote.

While the impact of seating employees close to each other happens almost instantly, the effects aren’t long lasting if the two groups are eventually separated. Once separated, the positive impact the employees had on each other usually goes away within two months, according to the study.

Administration Announces New Plan for Indiana Education

Gov. Daniels and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett have released a new plan for Indiana schools — and that plan was endorsed yesterday by the Indiana Education Roundtable. The Indy Star has the story:

The Indiana Education Roundtable, made up of education, business and civic leaders, unanimously recommended an education reform agenda being championed by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and supported by Gov. Mitch Daniels.

The next step is for the reform to be packaged into a series of bills that will be put before state legislators when they convene Jan. 5…

Garnering the most attention and what Bennett emphasized the most was improving the teacher evaluation process and awarding teachers based on performance rather than seniority.

The influence of teacher’s unions also was addressed in the reform agenda, including focusing collective bargaining agreements "on salaries and wage-related benefits, including innovative ways to recognize performance through compensation."

Gov. Mitch Daniels said various drafts of the bills are being pondered and that a first draft could be laid out in a couple of weeks.

"Every word we’ve said about how complicated this is true," Daniels said after the meeting. "But the day has come that we have to act."

You can find an outline of the plan here.

You can also listen to Indiana Chamber VP of Education & Workforce Development Derek Redelman offer his take on the proposed reforms.

Workforce Challenge: It’s a Big One

Traditionally, when it comes to innovative state comparisons, all too often Indiana finds itself on the short end of the stick. That is changing in some areas, including a recent Indiana Chamber study on the state of our workforce.

Indiana’s Adult Education and Workforce Skills Performance Report found that 931,366 adults (ages 18-64) have not completed high school, speak little or no English and/or are in families that earn less than a living wage (twice the level of poverty). While the challenge may be daunting, the state is ahead of the game in its analysis and has a policy team in place working on solutions.

Patrick Kelly of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems helped conduct the study. He says Indiana is emerging as a national leader.

“It is entirely unique – there’s not a report like it that really isolates this particular issue,” Kelly says. “Other states have addressed policy and some measures of accountability, but none are as concise and focused on this issue.”

The topic is an Indiana Chamber priority. It should be for everyone.