Jackson, MS – April 2, 2010 – On January 18 MS Governor Haley Barbour charged his Commission on school consolidation to slash the number of school districts from 152 to 100 or less and urged the Commission to target low-performing, under-resourced schools in order to save money and improve education. Having established the intended outcome, the Governor urged Commissioners to undertake a study to determine how best to reduce the number of school districts.
On February 1 the nationally-renowned firm of Augenblick & Palaich presented an overview of the field of school consolidation research, and on March 8, 2010 presented its analysis of Mississippi data and recommendations to the Commission. The consultant recommended focus on school districts with enrollments under 2,500 students, had scored in the failing or at risk of failing range on the state’s accountability assessment standards, and which had a per student cost of administration above $460. This correlation of 3 factors targets 14 school districts. If only two factors are used – school size and school district performance – then 31 districts would be targeted.
On April 2 Southern Echo and the MS Delta Catalyst Roundtable published a report to the Governor’s Commission entitled, “Understanding school consolidation policy: A data-driven research-based analysis of school size, school district performance and poverty in Mississippi school districts”.
The Echo-Roundtable analysis focuses on the power of poverty to negatively influence student performance; that the negative impact is greater in larger schools rather than smaller schools; that poverty, not school size, is the critical factor; and that low-wealth students do better in smaller rather than larger schools.