Preferred Name

Abbott W. Keesee

Date of Award

Spring 2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

School of Strategic Leadership Studies

Advisor(s)

Adam Vanhove

Karen A. Ford

Roger Collins

Abstract

The majority of a school system’s budget is spent on personnel. In order to use this tremendous amount of money efficiently it is important educators understand the impact different spending priorities, specifically total per-pupil expenditures, teacher salary, principal salary, pupil/teacher ratio, and pupil/support personnel ratio have on student achievement and how these inputs are moderated by a district’s population density and wealth. Spending data from all the school divisions in Virginia were examined using public spending data from the Virginia Department of Education, and population density and wealth statistics from the Office of Budget Management, US Census Bureau, and Commonwealth of Virginia Commission on Local Government. Bivariate correlations and linear regression slopes were examined to determine the impact of the main effects and multiple linear regression model building was used to examine how a district’s wealth and population density moderate the effects of per-pupil expenditures, teacher salary, principal salary, pupil/teacher ratio and pupil/support personnel ratio. Teacher salary proved significant for both math and reading scores while principal salary was significant for math scores only. None of the other main effects had a significant impact on student achievement. A division’s status as “rural” by itself proved to be correlated with both reading and math scores. Additionally, wealth by itself was a statistically and practically significant predictor of student achievement regardless of the measurement used highlighting the problems posed for education by economic inequality. When wealth was measured using either median household income or fiscal stress the correlation with student achievement was twice that of composite index indicating composite index may not be the best wealth measurement for the state to use to allocate funding in order to level the playing field. Further research is needed to determine how spending effects overall school climate, how the adverse impact of wealth can be overcome, and if making changes to the wealth measurement used will help to overcome the impact of wealth on student achievement.

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