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Return on Educational Investment: Glossary

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Achievement index: Index creating a score for each district by averaging together the percent of students designated proficient or above on the state assessment in reading and math in fourth grade, eighth grade, and high school for the 2007-08 school year. These data were drawn from the New America Foundation’s Federal Education Budget Project.

Adjusted Return on Investment index: Measure that uses the same approach as the Basic Return on Investment index or Basic ROI (see entry below), but applies a statistical method called a state-level regression analysis to adjust each district’s spending for the different costs associated with serving larger concentrations of low-income, non-English-speaking, and special education students in its state. The adjustments or weights used in the Basic ROI are often not sensitive enough to account for spending differences within states.

Administration expenditures: Expenditures for the administration of schools and school districts. This includes expenditures for the board of education, the administration of local education agencies, the office of the principal, full-time department chairpersons, graduation expenses, and business and central offices (fiscal services, budgeting, payroll, purchasing, storage, material distribution, planning, research, evaluation, staff recruitment, and data processing).

American Indian or Native Alaskan student: Non-Hispanic student having origins in any of the original peoples of North America and who maintains cultural identification with these groups through tribal affiliation or community recognition.

Asian or Pacific Islander student: Non-Hispanic student having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, or the Pacific Islands. Students in this category may have origins in China, India, Japan, Korea, the Philippine Islands, and Samoa, or be native Hawaiian.

Basic Return on Investment index: This measure rates school districts on how much academic achievement a district gets for each dollar spent relative to other districts in their state. We adjusted for a variety of factors including cost-of-living differences as well as higher concentrations of low-income, non-English-speaking, and special education students to avoid penalizing districts where education costs are higher.

Black student: Non-Hispanic student having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.

City: Large: Territory inside an urbanized area and inside a principal city with a population of 250,000 or more.

City: Midsize: Territory inside an urbanized area and inside a principal city with a population less than 250,000 and greater than or equal to 100,000.

City: Small: Territory inside an urbanized area and inside a principal city with a population less than 100,000.

Construction expenditures: Expenditures for new school construction, including renovation and expansion. They also include expenditures on land, existing buildings, and equipment for new and remodeled facilities.

Cost of living: Adjustment made to district expenditures to account for differences in the salaries of people living in different parts of the country. Lori Taylor at Texas A&M University and William Fowler at George Mason University developed the CWI to help researchers fine-tune education finance data to make better comparisons across geographic areas.

Eighth-grade math achievement: Percent of eighth graders scoring proficient or above in math according to state-defined proficiency standards for each grade. This measure is used for No Child Left Behind accountability.

Eighth-grade reading achievement: Percent of eighth graders scoring proficient or above in reading according to state-defined proficiency standards for each grade. This measure is used for No Child Left Behind accountability.

Enrollment: Annual headcount of students enrolled in a school on September 30 of each school year.

Fourth-grade math achievement: Percent of fourth graders scoring proficient or above in math according to state-defined proficiency standards for each grade. This measure is used for No Child Left Behind accountability.

Fourth-grade reading achievement: Percent of fourth graders scoring proficient or above in reading according to state-defined proficiency standards for each grade. This measure is used for No Child Left Behind accountability.

High school math achievement: Percent of students in high school scoring proficient or above in math according to state-defined proficiency standards. This measure is used for No Child Left Behind accountability.

High school reading achievement: Percent of students in high school scoring proficient or above in reading according to state-defined proficiency standards. This measure is used for No Child Left Behind accountability.

Hispanic student: Student of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.

Instructional expenditures: Current expenditures for activities directly associated with the interaction between teachers and students, including teacher salaries and benefits, supplies (such as textbooks), and purchased instructional services.

Interest on debt expenditures: Expenditures used to pay interest on long-term debt (obligations of more than one year).

Limited English proficient (LEP): Term used to describe students who are learning the English language. Some schools use the term English language learners, or ELLs, when referring to these students.

Low income: Term used to refer to students who receive free or reduced priced lunches under the National School Lunch Program.

Operations, food service, and other expenditures: Current expenditures for schools and school district operations, such as utilities, maintenance, security, and safety. Renovations are included in construction. This category also includes student transportation services such as bus drivers, mechanics, and fuel as well as the contracting of student transportation services. School bus purchases are included under capital outlay.

Per-pupil expenditure after adjusting for differences in cost of living: Expenditure per pupil adjusted for differences in the cost of living between districts.

Per-pupil expenditure after adjusting for differences in cost of living and student needs: Measure of per-pupil expenditure adjusted for differences in the cost of living and costs for students in special programs, such as those who receive subsidized lunches or are in special education.

Per-pupil expenditure, unadjusted: Expenditure per pupil without any adjustments for differences in the cost of living or students in special programs.

Per-pupil spending: Current expenditures for public elementary and secondary education in a state divided by the student membership.

Predicted efficiency index: Index measuring whether a district’s achievement is higher or lower than would be predicted after accounting for its per-pupil spending and percentage of students in special programs such as students receiving subsidized lunches. Under this approach a low-achieving district could get high marks if it performed better than predicted. Lowering academic expectations for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, however, is not a policy position the Center for American Progress supports.

Range of spending in the state: Difference between the 95th and the 5th percentile of per-pupil expenditures.

Rural: Distant: Census-defined rural territory that is more than 5 miles but less than or equal to 25 miles from an urbanized area as well as rural territory that is more than 2.5 miles but less than or equal to 10 miles from an urban cluster.

Rural: Fringe: Census-defined rural territory that is less than or equal to 5 miles from an urbanized area as well as rural territory that is less than or equal to 2.5 miles from an urban cluster.

Rural: Remote: Census-defined rural territory that is more than 25 miles from an urbanized area and is also more than 10 miles from an urban cluster.

School district: Locally governed agency responsible for providing free public elementary or secondary education. These includes independent school districts and those that are a dependent segment of a local government such as a city or county. For our study, we excluded districts classified as a charter school agency, state-operated institution, regional education services agency, supervisory union, or federal agency.

Special education: Students with disabilities designated as special education students under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, Part B.

State’s highest-spending districts: The 95th percentile of per-pupil expenditures.

State’s lowest-spending districts: The 5th percentile of per-pupil expenditures.

Student and staff support expenditures: Current expenditures for health, psychological, guidance, therapy, and attendance services for students, and for services that support instruction such as school libraries, media centers, curriculum development, and in-service teacher training.

Suburb: Large: Territory outside a principal city and inside an urbanized area with a population of 250,000 or more.

Suburb: Midsize: Territory outside a principal city and inside an urbanized area with a population less than 250,000 and greater than or equal to 100,000.

Suburb: Small: Territory outside a principal city and inside an urbanized area with a population less than 100,000.

Total capital outlay expenditures: Expenditures for fixed assets, construction, and equipment.

Total current expenditures: Funds spent operating local public schools and local education agencies, including expenses such as salaries for school district personnel, student transportation, school books and materials, and energy costs but excluding capital outlay, interest on school debt, payments to private schools, and payments to public charter schools.

Total expenditures: Current expenditures for public elementary and secondary education and expenditures for facilities acquisition and construction, replacement equipment, other programs, and interest on debt. Transfer payments to state and local governments are included in this total but transfer payments to other school systems are not.

Total nonelementary and secondary education expenditures, and other expenditures: Current expenditures for community services, adult education, and community colleges if they are run by the school district. This also includes payments to other school districts and payments to state and local government agencies.

Town: Distant: Territory inside an urban cluster that is more than 10 miles and less than or equal to 35 miles from an urbanized area.

Town: Fringe: Territory inside an urban cluster that is less than or equal to 10 miles from an urbanized area.

Town: Remote: Territory inside an urban cluster that is more than 35 miles of an urbanized area.

White student: Student having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East.

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