Jan 20, 2021

New National Data Archive Will Provide Normed, Research-Ready, School-by-School Spending Data

Hannah Jarmolowski
National Center Logo

The National Comprehensive Center has published a new resource announcing the development of a School Spending Data Archive. The archive will capture school-by-school spending figures reported by each state (as required by ESSA). The data are being aggregated, normed, and made comparable, publicly accessible, and aligned with other national-scale data sets, including those with student demographics and outcomes.

The paper describes how these new state data differ from other current or previous attempts to capture school-level financials, and how the archive will be a repository for school-by-school spending data that is reliable and useful for researchers by:

Building Apples-to-Apples Comparisons Across Districts, States, and Years

ESSA does not dictate a uniform process for school-by-school expenditure calculation that would enable “raw” state-reported figures to be cross-walked across states, or possibly even across districts. The School Spending Data Archive makes comparison possible by adjusting school-by-school per-pupil figures to reflect a set of standardized, included expenditures.

Providing Research-Ready Data That Can Easily Be Merged With Existing Data Sets

The School Spending Data Archive takes state data, often from webpages and PDFs, and converts them into clean, downloadable data sets. By attaching NCES School and District IDs to the data, the archive allows simpler merging with other data sets, opening up the possibility that currently collected school-level data can be analyzed in terms of school-by-school per-pupil spending.

Preserving Longitudinal or Cross-state Data

ESSA requires annual public reporting of school-by-school spending data but the data can be removed within the year. The School Spending Data Archive will ensure year-over-year data are captured for longitudinal analyses and eliminate the time-intensive search for data across 50+ websites.

The School Spending Data Archive will usher in the next generation of education research by enabling easier cost-benefit analysis and new research on equity, innovation, and productivity at the school level. These analyses will provide crucial insights for state education finance formula changes and leadership training. The school-by-school spending data archive is being developed by Edunomics Lab, Georgetown University and will be hosted by the University's Massive Data Institute. Learn more edunomics@georgetown.edu.

On a related note, our upcoming FiDWiG meeting (Thursday, February 4th at 1ET) will cover how SEAs can use their share of the ESSER money from the new federal aid package to improve their school-by-school expenditure reporting and financial decision-making processes.