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Studies Show Positive Impact of CFE Funding

In his 2001 ruling of Campaign for Fiscal Equity, et al. v State of New York, New York Supreme Court Justice Leland DeGrasse wrote: “The court holds that the education provided New York City students is so deficient that it falls below the constitutional floor set by the Education Article of the New York State Constitution. The court also finds that the State’s actions are a substantial cause of this constitutional violation.” So began the last decade of education reform in New York City Public Schools, which saw a dramatically increased resource infusion and a host of reform initiatives in the City’s schools.

A retrospective on the Klein years—which might also be called the post-CFE years—was recently provided at a conference convened on November 20, 2010 by American Institutes for Research to report on the results of the “New York City Education Reform Retrospective Project” funded by the Gates, Carnegie, Dell and Robertson Foundations. A series of papers prepared by a number of leading national scholars catalogued the successes and failures of the Klein years. (The Harvard University Education Press will be publishing the collection in a book entitled Education Reform in New York City: Ambitious Change in the Nation’s Most Complex School System in spring 2011). They make it clear that one of the main driving forces behind many of the positive changes in the city’s schools has been the availability of sufficient funds that allowed the system to innovate and improve.

For the New York City Public Schools during the Klein years, annual “total revenues rose from $14.2 billion to $19.5 billion (adjusted for inflation) between 2002 and 2008, representing an increase of roughly $5,800 per pupil,” according to a paper by Leanna Stiefel and Amy Ellen Schwartz, Financing K-12 Education in the Bloomberg Years, 2002-2008. Furthermore, teacher salaries increased about 25 percent, ushering in a new crop of higher qualified teachers to NYCPS. Some of this growth in funding for New York City schools can be credited to the CFE case. Although part of this additional funding occurred before the final appeals decisions and the legislative follow up in CFE, the pendency of the case after the initial trial court decision and the media and political pressure it created for adequacy and equity in school motivated the legislature to substantially increase educational allocations during all of the years covered, even before it was formally ordered to do.

Some specific examples of how the extra funds available during the Klein years bolstered NYCPS are detailed in a report by Margaret Goertz, Susanna Loeb, and Jim Wyckoff (Recruiting, Evaluating and Retaining Teachers: The Children First Strategy to Improve New York City’s Teachers), which addresses the changes that were implemented to significantly improve teaching quality. The CFE decisions emphasized teacher quality as being the highest priority element in providing students the opportunity for a sound basic education. The Klein administration implemented expensive programs to help address the relative lack of high-quality teachers in New York City. Salaries for a teacher with a BA and no prior experience increased 13 percent from 2000 to 2008, after adjusting for inflation. Other financial incentives to attract new and veteran teachers to work in high-need schools were used also, such as the Housing Support Program, School-wide Performance Bonus Program, Lead Teacher Program, and the Conversion Program. To improve school leadership, the city helped launch a new Leadership Academy to train principals, and began a $36 million mentoring program for beginning teachers. The paper by Goertz et al. shows that, because of these and other costly initiatives, “the qualifications of teachers in the schools with the greatest proportion of poor students improved dramatically between 2000 and 2005,” and “as a result, the gap in teaching qualifications between low-and high-poverty schools substantially declined across all measures of qualifications.”

These changes have all led to increased outcomes for students in New York City. According to a report by James J. Kemple at New York University (Children First and Student Outcomes: 2003-2010), Department of Education records show that, “on average, the city’s schools have made significant progress both on test score measures and on high school completion rates.” In 2010 New York State raised standards for “proficiency” in state standardized testing. Despite these changes, New York City fourth and eighth graders continued to show gains in reading and math scores, according to Kemple. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the only national assessment of student achievement, and here, too, NYCPS students have made gains. Scores for fourth graders in New York City have shown significant improvements on NAEP assessments in reading and math since 2002, and math scores for grades four and eight rose steadily from 2003-2009. Furthermore, graduation rates in the city have risen over time, after staying constant at 50 percent for decades, the graduation rate rose to 63 percent in 2009.

Although much has been written over the years about whether “money matters,” the consensus among scholars on both sides of that debate now seems to be that of course, money matters—if it is used well. The over-all conclusion of the researchers at the New York City retrospective conference seemed to be that the CFE money has mattered significantly in New York City because in many ways it was well used.