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In This Issue:

Financial Allocation Study for Texas Update
Austin Office Opens; TSP Staff Added
Supplemental Educational Services Study Update
Researcher Profile - M. Kathleen Thomas
Data Holdings Update


Financial Allocation Study for Texas Update

Last fall the Texas Comptroller’s Office began a study of school district resource allocation practices that contribute to high academic achievement and cost-effective operations.

The study, now referred to as the Financial Allocation Study for Texas, is required by House Bill 3 and uses data from The University of Texas Dallas Education Research Center.

Over the past seven months, advisory groups have met to delve into important topics being addressed by the study including cost drivers, student performance indicators, campus/district groupings, best practices, measures of academic progress, financial and efficiency models and study methodology. The advisory groups are made up of superintendents from a variety of districts in Texas, technical professionals from throughout Texas and nationally-regarded experts from across the country.

Most recently, the Academic Measures Peer Review Panel met to comment on the work of the Comptroller’s office and the UT Dallas Education Research Center, which developed initial value-added campus and district-level statistical estimates of student growth.

“One thing has become clear thus far from conversations with all the project participants: no single measure can capture what is important on school campuses or in districts. In meeting requirements of HB 3, school districts and campuses will be compared in a manner that is as fair as possible. Campuses and districts in Texas exhibit many diverse characteristics, and the measures we are developing will take these differences into account,” said Texas Comptroller Susan Combs.

Learn more about the Financial Allocation Study for Texas.

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Austin Office Opens; TSP Staff Added

Texas Schools Project is pleased to announce the opening of its Austin office. "We expect that this office will be a valuable resource to both agencies and researchers in the Central Texas area," said Dan O'Brien, executive director of Texas Schools Project.

Plans for the Austin office began in 2009 as center management recognized the many benefits such a location would provide. "While we have a few remote access sites located in educational organization facilities around the state, those sites are set up to only enable researchers to electronically access data. Our Austin office provides both data access and on-site TSP staff assistance and services for researchers," said Anne Ware, Texas Schools Project's assistant director in charge of Austin office operations.

Staffing for the Austin office is almost complete and will be announced this summer.

In addition to new hires for the Austin office, Tommi Ivey has been hired at Texas Schools Project's main UT Dallas office as an administrative assistant, supporting account reconciliations, travel, payroll, and facilities management. Ivey has worked in a variety of other departments at UT Dallas, is a member of the National Council of University Research Administrators, and a representative on UT Dallas' Staff Council.

With the growth of Texas Schools Project, Dr. Kristin Kuhne has been moved to the role of Chief of Staff, managing overall operations for the center. In this capacity Kuhne oversees financial management, administrative staff, communications, and grant funding.

"This is an exciting time for Texas Schools Project," said O'Brien. "In addition to expanding our presence and staff, we are also adding important data to our already rich data warehouse, which will allow for the broadening of independent, high-quality academic research as well as in-house research being conducted by our own research staff. Such work continues to build on our goals of improving academic achievement, teacher effectiveness, increasing transitions to and success in postsecondary education, and improving labor market outcomes of students in Texas and the nation."

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Supplemental Educational Services Study Update

In 2009, Texas Schools Project began a partnership with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research to perform a national study of Supplemental Educational Services (SES) in five large, urban school districts: Dallas, Austin, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis. Dr. Nidhi Mehrotra of Texas Schools Project is overseeing the Dallas ISD study, which began last fall. Kimberly Jones, an evaluation specialist at Texas Schools Project, is assisting Dr.Mehrotra in this study.

The purpose of the study is to improve student learning and achievement by identifying successful approaches in the organization and management of SES programs within school districts and effective strategies for the design and delivery of SES programs by approved SES providers.

“We have been involved in a variety of investigations regarding SES in Dallas Independent School District recently,” said Mehrotra. “Over the past several months, we have met with district SES administrators to collect information about the district's polices that impact the delivery of services, hosted two parent focus groups to learn about parents' perceptions regarding SES services in DISD, interviewed several SES providers to collect information about their experiences, and conducted observations of tutoring sessions in various schools.”

The Dallas study is expected to continue through 2013.

“SES is one key way schools can narrow the achievement gap and provide additional educational opportunities for low-income and minority students,” said Dan O’Brien, director of Texas Schools Project. “There has been little research, though, in determining which SES programs work best and how SES might improve its services for these students.”

SES has been broadly used throughout the U.S. since 2002 as a mandatory intervention for students of Title 1 schools that fail to meet adequate yearly progress. A large percentage of these students come from low-income homes. Previous research on programs that take place outside of the regular school day confirms that high-quality programs can improve student educational outcomes.

The Austin ISD study will be managed by Anne Ware, Texas Schools Project’s assistant director of its new Austin office, and is expected to get underway later this year.

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Researcher Profile - M. Kathleen Thomas

Kathleen Thomas is an associate professor of economics at Mississippi State University and a research fellow with Texas Schools Project. Her areas of interest include education policy, public finance, and education finance.

Kathleen's work has been published in a variety of scholarly journals including Southern Economic Journal, Economics of Education Review, Social Science Quarterly, The Journal of Economic Education, and Small Business Economics.

As a former research associate at Texas Schools Project, Kathleen is excited to be back at UT Dallas working with former colleagues. She said, "I began my career working for John Kain, founder of Texas Schools Project, studying minority access to higher education. It's great to be back eight years later using the new data."

Her current research examines arts participation in high school and its impact on various education outcomes. Kathleen said, "Currently, no comprehensive study exists that examines basic access to arts education at the secondary level, especially for low-income, minority, and rural students."

"Art is designated as a core academic subject under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and arts advocacy groups believe art education can improve academic achievement for all students, but budget cuts and the NCLB accountability requirements in the key subjects are creating incentives for some schools to reduce instructional time in the arts," said Kathleen.

She is using UTD-ERC data to investigate arts education access for students typically defined as at-risk. "UTD-ERC data track all students in grades preK-16 attending public schools in Texas, which allows me to control for the student and school characteristics likely to affect both education outcomes and arts participation."

This interest in art education stemmed from the dissertation being conducted by Thomas Henry, a PhD candidate in economics at Mississippi State. She said, "Thomas and I both have musical backgrounds and find this research agenda appealing on a personal level. Thomas is examining some of these questions using the NLSY, and I felt a similar study using UTD-ERC data would provide even more robust results."

Kathleen expects this study to be the first in a series of research regarding high school arts participation and achievement. Future studies will look at the role of AP arts participation as a possible gateway to the AP Program for students traditionally underrepresented in the program, as well as the educational outcomes for performing arts students at magnet schools.

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Data Holdings Update - May 24, 2010

The University of Texas at Dallas Education Research Center (UTD-ERC), part of Texas Schools Project, houses a wealth of data provided by the Texas Education Agency, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and State Board for Educator Certification.

A complete listing of current data available can be found on our website under Data Holdings.

Information on accessing this data can be found on our website under Access.

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A research center within The University of Texas at Dallas' School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences