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The Financial and Non-Financial Factors Associated with 11th Grade Student Academic Proficiency in Math and Reading in Pennsylvania

Abstract

This paper addresses the following claim(s):

"This study was originally intended to explore the relationship between course enrollment and passing rates and performance on the Pennsylvania and New Jersey 11th grade state math assessments within the MSPGP's (Math Science Partnership of Greater Philadelphia) 46 districts. PSSA performance includes the percentage of students scoring advanced, proficient, basic, and below basic for each district. Since we had already obtained other "contextual" variables from public sources in order to write the School Math and Science Status Reports we used these data to run a series of stepwise multiple regression analyses. The regression coefficients allowed us to examine the unique effect of each variable while holding other variables constant. For both the analysis of the 46 MSPGP districts and the state-wide study, we performed a forward stepwise linear regression with percentage of 11th graders scoring advanced, percentage of 11th graders scoring proficient or above, and percentage of 11th graders scoring below basic on PSSA as the dependent variables respectively, and the following variables as potential predictors:
  • Percentage of economically disadvantaged students
  • Percentage of white students
  • Percentage of community residents with a bachelor's degree
  • Percentage of low-income households in the community
  • Revenue per student (in $1,000)
  • Total pupil expenditure (in $1,000)
  • Instructional expenditure per student (in $1,000)


For the 46 MSPGP district analysis, we also considered the percentage of 11th graders who took Level 3 college prep or above math courses, and the percentage of 11th graders who took Level 4 or above college prep math courses. In addition, an analysis of publicly available data for the 498 school districts in Pennsylvania reveals that:
  • 11th grade PSSA performance in math and reading is slightly negatively associated with total district expenditures per student, which ranged between $ 8,168 - $29,512 per student, while holding other contextual variables constant.
  • 11th grade PSSA performance in math and reading is not significantly associated with instructional expenditures per student, which ranged between $ 4,276 - $11,010 per student, with less than 1 percent of variation in district-level PSSA proficiency attributable to instructional expenditures.
  • 11th grade PSSA performance in math and reading is positively and strongly associated with the percentage of community residents with a bachelor's degree.
  • The percentage of minority students in a district has a moderate to strong negative correlation with the percentage of students scoring advanced or proficient on the 11th grade PSSA test.
  • The percentage of students in low-income households in a district has a moderate to strong negative correlation with the percentage of students scoring advanced or proficient on the 11th grade PSSA test.
  • These patterns remain even when Pittsburgh and Philadelphia districts are excluded from the analysis, suggesting that these are consistent patterns across the state.


  • A more in depth study of 46 districts in PA and NJ suggests that there is a moderate positive relationship between higher-level math course taking and 11th grade PSSA test performance.
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