Archive for Thursday, June 28, 2007

Governor’s study rates De Soto school district as 100 percent efficient

June 28, 2007

De Soto USD 232 is one of the most efficient districts in Kansas, according to a recent study by Standard & Poor's.

The district achieved 100 percent efficiency, measured by academic performance achieved for money spent while considering other uncontrollable demographic variables.

The report was funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and supported by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

"These studies are not intended to encourage school districts to cut costs, but to use their limited resources in the most effective ways possible to increase student achievement," said Michael Stewart, director of research and analytics at S&P's School Evaluation Services. "In other words, the purpose of the study is to help school districts get the most out of every dollar they spend."

The financial service firm collected information from 257 of the state's 300 school districts and examined how much money was spent per student, how well students scored on state math and reading assessments and how many students attended the district who were low-income, disabled or had limited English proficiency. De Soto was one of 21 districts ranging in size and location to receive perfect scores.

Other school districts in Johnson County to receive a perfect rating were Shawnee Mission and Gardner Edgerton. Olathe and Blue Valley school districts received near-perfect ratings with scores of more than 99 percent.

The average score in Kansas was 85 percent with the lowest at about 60 percent.

To determine each district's relative efficiency, the firm used an analytical method called data envelopment analysis.

The results of the study are meant to help districts identify best practices and know where to look to seek out new ideas, Stewart said.

"Successful organizations of all kinds continually search for new ideas and methods to improve performance," he said.

"Benchmarking is the process many of them use to improve performance and trigger fundamental breakthroughs in thinking and practice. School improvement teams can use this same approach."

Sebelius said in a press release that excellence can't be bought, but it can be achieved with wise investments.

"This study is a road map of what works and what doesn't," Sebelius said. "Every Kansas child, in every corner of the state, deserves a first-class education. This report helps us get the best return on that investment."

De Soto Superintendent Sharon Zoellner said the results were rewarding.

"It is very validating when an outside agency does research like this and highlights the fact that we are doing great things for kids in the most efficient method possible," she said.

Zoellner said De Soto planned to maintain the same level of efficiency, but she worried the study could send the wrong message to the state.

"I am concerned that it might send the message that we don't need any additional funding, but we do," she said.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.