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Professional Rigor, Public Engagement and Judicial Review: A Proposal for Enhancing the Validity of Education Adequacy Studies

by Michael A. Rebell - 2007

Background/Context: In recent years, state legislatures, state education departments, and advocacy groups in over 30 states have sponsored education adequacy studies, which aim to determine objectively the amount of funding needed to provide all students a meaningful opportunity for an adequate education. Not surprisingly, because of their growing influence on funding decisions, these studies have now become the subject of critical commentary and judicial scrutiny, and serious questions have arisen about the validity of the methodologies used in some of the studies. By setting out to determine objectively the resource levels needed to provide all students with an adequate education—and by doing so through relatively open and transparent processes—the contemporary adequacy cost studies are vast improvements over the ad-hoc political deal-making processes of the past. Nevertheless, the validity and the reliability of these methodologies can be improved.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This article provides the first detailed analysis of judicial critiques of the state of the art of “costing out” studies in order to recommend improvements to the current practice of costing-out educational adequacy.

Research Design: The article engages in an extensive review of judicial critiques of adequacy cost studies, literature critiquing adequacy cost studies, and the adequacy cost studies themselves, in order to identify the best and worst practices in the field.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Based on these critiques, the article recommends explicit articulation of the premises behind the adoption of particular outcome standards, more precise means for identifying the extent to which students with special needs require extra resources, specific mechanisms to minimize political bias and political manipulations, and the use of “quality education models” to integrate efficiency and accountability considerations within the basic cost analysis. In addition, more extensive public engagement and continuing judicial oversight will be necessary to ensure the credibility and the legitimacy of the ultimate judgments that result from these studies.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 109 Number 6, 2007, p. 1303-1373
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12743, Date Accessed: 3/5/2021 8:00:10 AM

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About the Author
  • Michael Rebell
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    E-mail Author
    MICHAEL REBELL is the Executive Director of the Campaign for Educational Equity and Professor of Law and Educational Practice at Teachers College, Columbia University. He is also a Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School and Counsel for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc. Recent publications include “Adequacy Litigations: A New Path to Equity.” In Bringing Equity Back. Janice Petrovich and Amy Stuart Wells, (Eds.), New York: Teachers College Press, 2005; and “Education Adequacy, Democracy and the Courts.” In Achieving High Educational Standards for All, T. Ready, C. Edley, and C. Snow, (Eds.), Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2002: 218–268.
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