Date of Award

8-15-2005

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)

Department

Professional Studies in Education

First Advisor

Wenfan Yan, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Cathy C. Kaufman, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Dr. Peggy Farrah

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate the size effect of school districts in rural Pennsylvania on fiscal management, administrative leadership, and student academic achievement. The data analyzed in this study is Pennsylvania System of School Assessment by Pennsylvania Department of Education and Common Core of Data by National Center for Educational Statistics. This study compared several indicators in each of those three areas between big and small rural school districts. Fiscal management measured school district total current expenditure, per pupil expenditure, and expenditure distribution, i.e., expenditure on instructional activities, expenditure on supportive activities and expenditure on non-instructional activities. Administrative leadership measured school district school staffing, program availability, educational resources, and professional development. Student academic achievement examined achievement test scores and academic engagement. Student achievement test scores included PSSA scores, SAT scores, and ACT scores. Student academic engagement included district attendance rate, school discipline, dropout rates, and attainment. Additionally, ANCOVA was used to obtain the net size effect of school districts when controlling for the school district background iv characteristics. Finally, regression models were established to demonstrate the combined effect of school district size, background characteristics, fiscal management, and administrative leadership on student achievement. The results showed that big and small rural school districts in Pennsylvania do not differ significantly in terms of per pupil expenditure, school staffing, curricular offerings at elementary level and secondary/junior high level, educational resources, student engagement and attainment. However, big rural school districts have more course offerings at senior high level than small ones. Big rural school districts also have significantly higher standardized test scores (PSSA, SAT and ACT) than small ones. Further analyses indicated that school district size has no direct effect on student achievement. Rather, school district SES level and course offerings at senior high level are two important predictors of student academic achievement. The results is very informative to the policy makers when they are struggling with the school district consolidation issue since Pennsylvania is facing a dramatic declining student population in the coming years. Whether to combine small school districts into big ones or not, this study provides the empirical evidence.

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