Regional Education Indicators

LPC Faculty: Mary Kay Stein and Richard Correnti
Ph.D. Students: David Frank (LSAP) and Michael Siciliano (GSPIA)
Partner Organization: Pittsburgh Today

Like most local regions, the Pittsburgh area does not have a viable set of educational indicators. With only state assessment scores to mark differences in student achievement among schools and districts, local policymakers and other decision makers have little actionable information with which to improve the quality of education. State assessment scores can vary for a variety of reasons, some of which are reflective of unequal fiscal investments, but others of which relate to educational processes, for example, decisions regarding how and what resources become available to students and education professionals working in the schools and how productively these resources are used.

As in the rest of the nation, the development of a viable and usable indicator system for the Pittsburgh region will be challenging because the measures that are most readily accessible are inputs (primarily fiscal) and outputs (often single measures of student performance); little to no information about the daily work of teachers and students inside our schools and classrooms is routinely available to policymakers and the public. In other words, the processes of schooling remain a black box. Thus, when schools or districts vary with respect to student performance or when achievement gaps are found between groups of students, we know very little about the reason for those differences – whether our schools contribute to or ameliorate those gaps.

Thus, the development of indicators that examine the processes that lay between educational inputs and outputs and that provide additional ways of measuring student achievement is a necessary ingredient to a regional indicator system. Such a system will yield a rich source of variation among schools and districts that can be explicitly used by educators and policy makers to enact beneficial change.

This project will collect information on 130 school districts in southwestern Pennsylvania, 8 school districts in West Virginia, and 15 school districts in Ohio. These districts were selected because they are located in the 22 counties that Pittsburgh Today has identified as important to the Pittsburgh economy. This project will report out information primarily at the district level as this is the level at which decisions are made, that is, local school boards are responsible for policymaking regarding how districts will operate and thus will be in the position to make changes if warranted.

All of the input and some of the output data are available through public sources. The most recent year for which 100% of the input data and student scores on the state assessment tests are available is 2005-06. The data base will be assembled with information from that year and then updated annually from that point forward (as soon as data are available). Output data and virtually all of the process data will be collected through surveys. The educational indicators will be assembled alongside other currently available indicators for the Pittsburgh region on the Pittsburgh Today web-site (http://www.pittsburghtoday.org/web/home.jsp).