School Finance Research Project Study: Explanation of Methodologies

The School Finance Research Project Study team’s work focuses on identifying the resources needed for all Michigan students to meet state standards. This includes identifying a base cost figure designed to represent what a student with no special needs in a district with no special circumstances needs to meet state standards.

Next, adjustments for student characteristics and district characteristics are examined. Student characteristics include special education, at-risk students and English Language Learners (ELL). The study of student characteristics includes researching the impact of concentrations of these students and different levels of need within each category, such as literate versus illiterate at-risk students. District characteristics include size and isolation issues.

The School Finance Research Project Study team is using two methodologies: The Professional Judgment and Evidence-Based approaches.

Professional Judgment approach

The Professional Judgment approach relies on a series of educator panels to identify the resources needed to meet all Michigan standards. Panelists range from teachers to superintendents, and will be brought together from all parts of the state and from all types of school districts and charter schools. First, educators build a set of schools during the school-level panels. The school-level panels are designed to identify the resources any student should expect to have in place in any school in the state.

Panelists first build the base-level resources, then identify resources for at-risk students. After the school-level panels set the base-level resources, special needs panels meet to review the base-level resources and identify the resources needed for special education, at-risk and ELL students.

These panels will examine the impacts of various concentrations and different levels of student need. The panels will examine the different levels of resources needed for mild, moderate and severe special needs students, literate versus illiterate at-risk students, and ELL students at different WIDA levels.
Four different district panels (very small, small, moderate, and large size districts), panels on charter schools and geographically isolated districts will then meet to review all previous work, make adjustments to fit district size context, and identify the resources needed at the district level to ensure success at the school level.

Resources identified at the district level include district administrators, administrative costs, security and other central office needs. After the district-level panels are held, a statewide panel will meet to review all work and finalize the resources for the Professional Judgment approach.

Evidence-Based approach

The Evidence-Based approach generates a set of resources needed to implement a set of educational principles based on the best academic research on student success. These resources include those needed for all students to meet state educational standards, as well as additional resources for special education, at-risk and ELL students. Resources for students include instructional resources, such as teachers, and the social and emotional structures needed for student success. Social-emotional supports include social workers, counselors and other professional staff. Once the model resources are identified, educators from around Michigan will be asked to determine if the resources are adequate to meet the needs of Michigan students. Urban educators, including teachers and administrators, will be included in this process.

The report incorporates findings of Michigan’s 2016 school funding report, which called for increasing base per-pupil funding and additional funding for at-risk students and English Language Learners. The state’s report used the Successful School District approach, which assumes the base cost spent by districts found to be meeting standards could be used for all districts.