Getting Down to Dollars and Cents: What Do School Districts Spend to Deliver Student-Centered Learning?

In this report by the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), researchers examined 12 high schools around the country that educate students according to student-centered learning (SCL) principles. (CRPE included two Ohio high schools: Cleveland’s MC2 STEM Academy and Federal Hocking High School.) CRPE identifies and defines, in detail, five principles of SCL: (1) personalized instruction, (2) authentic instruction, (3) mastery-based assessment, (4) learning that reaches beyond the school walls, and (5) learning models that change the school schedule.

The researchers pose two practical questions about high schools that deploy SCL principles. First, does SCL generate higher costs than traditional approaches to schooling? And second, do schools that use SCL allocate their resources (time and money) differently than traditional schools?

With respect to the first question, the researchers found that, no, SCL high schools don’t necessarily spend more or less than traditional high schools. With respect to the second question, the researchers found that, yes, SCL high schools allocate resources differently than traditional high schools. SCL schools, for example, spend more on classroom instruction and less on administration. In fact, CRPE researchers found that one school employed just one part-time administrator and hired four unpaid interns to perform administrative duties, which freed it to spend more on classroom instruction.

CRPE concludes by recommending “hard budget constraints for schools and then giving schools the resource flexibility they need.” School leaders in SCL schools agreed that flexibility in allocating time and money is a necessary condition successful implementation of SCL. Thus, CRPE adds further evidence that flexibility stands as a major component of innovative learning environments, one of which is student-centered learning.

SOURCE: Lawrence J. Miller, Betheny Gross, and Monica Ouijdani, Getting Down to Dollars and Cents: What Do School Districts Spend to Deliver Student-Centered Learning? (Seattle: Center on Reinventing Public Education, November 2012).

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