Franklin (MA) School Committee Blog

The pieces below represent the views of the individual authors, not the committee as a whole.

Franklin is tops nationally in educational efficiency and productivity

Posted by Jeffrey Roy on January 22, 2011

In August last year we read about Franklin being touted as a “spotlight district” by a national think-tank for its high return on investment in education (click here to read the Milford Daily News story). The final report by the Center for American Progress (CAP) has been issued, and Franklin is rated highly efficient on all three of the productivity metrics covered by the study. This report is the culmination of a yearlong effort to study the efficiency of the nation’s public education system. You can review and download the report by clicking here or on the document image to the right.

If you view the interactive piece, you will see that Franklin received one of the top rankings in Massachusetts for educational productivity and efficiency (click here) – one of only 21 of the 351 communities in the state to be so recognized. You can view the full district report on Franklin by clicking here.

In order to spark a national dialogue about educational productivity, CAP attempted to evaluate the return on investment (ROI) of almost every major school district in the country. By productivity, they mean how much learning a district produces for every dollar spent, after controlling for factors such as cost of living and students in poverty.

The report notes that highly productive districts such as Franklin are focused on improving student outcomes. From its survey, CAP reported that the districts that performed well on its metrics shared a number of values and practices, including strong community support and a willingness to make tough choices.

The report also makes plain that school spending can make a difference in achievement; but additional dollars make a difference only if the funds are well spent. According to the report, a number of states, such as Massachusetts, have shown that strategic spending can make a large and significant difference in student achievement. For example, a large body of research shows that certain inputs such as teacher quality can significantly impact student outcomes. One series of studies showed that students who have three or four highly effective teachers in a row will succeed academically, while those who have a sequence of weak teachers fall further behind.

The focus in the Franklin school system has long been to direct resources into the classroom, to recruit and retain top quality teachers, support a strong curriculum and to maintain appropriate class sizes. Indeed, attracting and retaining the best and brightest teachers in the Franklin public school system has been one of the top priorities for the School Committee. The result has been stellar academic performance, to the point where our students have gained acceptances at the top universities and colleges in the nation. We have written frequently about the importance of good teaching (click here, here, here, here, here, here, here, & here) and urge you to review these pieces again as we approach the next budget season.

We have cautioned the community about reductions in education spending, and maintaining our commitment to funding an appropriate education for our children. The CAP report validates the tough choices we have made over the years about the proper allocation of funds.

But in recent years, despite these warnings, we have seen an erosion in education spending in Franklin. Attempts to bridge budget gaps with operational overrides have failed (except on one occasion) and are often surrounded by criticism that our system is mismanaged, wasteful and inefficient. As this report indicates, those claims are sadly mistaken and the critics will only be silenced if we spread the truth.

In the next few months we’ll be talking about budget deficits and spending again. We will urge citizens to adequately fund one of the most efficient school systems in the nation. And we will urge citizens to support the system which has delivered a high return on its investment. We hope that you will be a part of this effort. After all, we don’t want to become the next celebrated community in Massachusetts that gave up on its school system (click here to be reminded about what happened in Randolph).

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