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September 28, 2004

Report: New York's schools are less cost-effective than those in most states

Student achievement is lower in New York's public schools than in most states when measured in light of dollars spent and students' preparedness, a new study finds.

New York ranked 48th among the states in a School Efficiency Index compiled by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. Connecticut and New Jersey were the only states ranked lower. Adjusting for differences in costs of living, the Empire State ranked 37th in the nation.

"Some states get substantially more education for each dollar they spend," the Institute said in its report, The Teachability Index: Can Disadvantaged Students Learn?

The Institute analyzed levels of poverty, single parenthood, crime, preschool attendance and other factors to determine how "teachable" students in the various states are when they come to school. New York ranked relatively low, 35th, in the Teachability Index, meaning that students in the Empire State have somewhat greater needs than those in most states.

Taking that finding into account, New York students perform modestly better than expected, based on standardized math and reading tests, the Institute found.

However, that better-than-expected performance does not match the dramatic difference in school spending in New York, compared to other states. The combination of per-pupil spending that is significantly higher than average, and student achievement only slightly higher than expected, results in a low rating on the School Efficiency Index.

"In explaining school outcomes, education experts have long stressed school inputs-money and students' backgrounds-often to the exclusion of other factors," the Manhattan Institute report said. "These indexes suggest that what schools do makes a big difference in how much students learn, independent of inputs to the system."

The full report is available here.