For years, this page and other observers have been calling on Utah to consolidate some of its schools and school districts as a way of making scare education funds go farther.
But now some second thoughts may be in order. Fortunately, there's also reason for reconsidering the notion that the way to solve school problems is to throw more money at them.A study by a University of Illinois education professor and a researcher from the U.S. Department of Education has reached a surprising conclusion: Today's school districts around the country may already be too big for their own good.
Herbert Walberg and William Fowler Jr. reviewed hundreds of empirical studies of school districts. They found, Scripps Howard News Service reports, "insignificant relationships between spending levels and student outcomes." In other words, schools that spent more did not necessarily produce better academic results.
But on the other hand, the researchers found that student test scores were higher in small school districts than in large ones - even after adjusting for the students' social and economic backgrounds. Thus the "consolidation of districts into larger units that has been taking place for the past half century may have been a move in the wrong direction."
Walberg and Fowler suggest that smaller districts may enjoy advantages in "the absence of bureaucratic layers and administrative complexity, teacher involvement in decision-making, and close home-school relations." School boards everywhere should take note.