News from the Bush School

New Online Resource Administered by Mosbacher Institute Launched to Empower School Districts

May 25, 2016

an apple on top of books

 

On May, 25, 2016, Texans for Positive Economic Policy, in collaboration with the Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics, and Public Policy, will launch TxSmartSchools.org, which empowers school districts to benchmark themselves against their peers and enables parents to assess the quality of education their children are receiving compared to its cost. The goal is to improve education by identifying Smart Schools that are both effective and efficient with their resources and then highlighting their successful practices. The Texas Smart Schools Initiative is housed at Texans for Positive Economic Policy and administered by the Mosbacher Institute at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University.

TXSmartSchools.org is built on the foundational work of the Financial Allocation Study for Texas (FAST), developed at the request of the 81st Texas Legislature and launched by Susan Combs during her tenure as Texas comptroller. It continues FAST’s charge to “identify school districts and campuses that use resource allocation practices that contribute to high academic achievement and cost-effective operations,” but improves on FAST by using more comprehensive academic, financial, and demographic data to create even fairer, more nuanced measures of academic progress and cost effectiveness.

The Texas Smart Schools Initiative combines academic progress and real expenditure measures to create a one- to five-star “Smart Score” rating, which gives a reliable picture of schools and districts that are getting the maximum student progress in return for each taxpayer dollar. TXSmartSchools.org will enable anyone to access its school and district-level data and “Smart Scores” free of charge. Schools performing at the top will be affirmed in their academic and budgetary decisions, while others will have the opportunity to learn from their top performing peers.

Dr. Lori Taylor, director of the Mosbacher Institute and principal investigator on this project, has conducted extensive research on the cost of education and the determinants of school district efficiency. According to Taylor, “the key to understanding and improving schools and school districts is being able to make fair and helpful comparisons among them. TXSmartSchools.org uses recognized statistical methods to create better, more apples-to-apples comparison measures for both performance and spending. We see this as an essential tool for educators who are seeking to learn from the best practices of similarly situated schools.”