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David S. Knight

Carleton H. Brown, David S. Knight.

This manuscript explores the argument for lower student-to-school counselor ratios in U.S. public education. Drawing upon a comprehensive historical review and existing research, we establish the integral role of school counselors and the notable benefits of reduced student-tocounselor ratios. Our analysis of national data exposes marked disparities across states and districts, with the most underfunded often serving higher percentages of low-income students and students of color. This situation raises significant ethical concerns, prompting a call for conscientious policy reform and targeted investment. Informed by emerging best practices, we propose recommendations for enhancing counselor staffing and ultimately student outcomes. This ethical argument underscores the need for proactive actions and provides a basis for future research to further delineate the impact of school counselor ratios on educational equity and student success.

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David S. Knight, Pooya Almasi, Jinseok Shin, Julia Duncheon.

A stable learning environment is critical to high school reforms aimed at promoting postsecondary educational success. High teacher attrition can disrupt stable learning environments by uprooting student-teacher relationships and harming school climate. Educational leaders need greater understanding of how college readiness reforms alter learning environments generally, and teacher retention in particular. We study teacher turnover in two Texas College and Career Readiness School Models (CCRSM), called Early College High Schools and inclusive Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Academies. We find (a) CCRSM schools have lower teacher turnover compared to traditional public high schools, (b) charter versions of CCRSM schools have higher turnover, but (c) non-CCRSM charters have the highest overall teacher turnover. We discuss implications for improving high school-based college readiness reforms.     

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Claire McMorris, David S. Knight.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress in 2020 included significant aid to state education systems. These included direct aid to K-12 districts and higher education institutions, and funds to be used at the discretion of Governors through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER). We examine the factors influencing where and how GEER funding was distributed across state K-12 systems and what inequities were introduced in its spending. Using a mixed methods analysis of state GEER spending plans and district-level finance data, we focus specifically on how governors sought to target schools serving disadvantaged student groups. We find that several state leaders decided to send their GEER funds to school districts via funding formulas, and that some Governors made decisions to direct their GEER funds towards certain student groups. State spending patterns were not strongly related to governor political ideology or the states’ existing funding formulas or inter-district resource allocation patterns. We discuss the implications of this policy related to two state case examples, California and New York, and provide insight for future education stimulus funding proposals.

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David S. Knight, Pooya Almasi, JoLynn Berge.

In this forthcoming book chapter, the authors provide an in-depth description of the history and current issues pertaining to public school finance in Washington State, including how recent federal stimulus funding impacted resource levels. The state uses a resource-based funding model, where the amount of funds each school district receives is based on the district’s enrollment level and a series of staffing ratios and salary schedules. In contrast, most U.S. states use a simpler, dollar-based funding formula that determines district funding levels using a per-student dollar amount. Dollar-based funding models typically include student weights that drive more state funds to school districts with greater need. Washington’s resource-based model does not have weights and provides approximately equal per-pupil state funding regardless of local need. When combined with the state’s local tax revenues, Washington’s K-12 finance system provides higher per-pupil funding levels to districts serving wealthier student populations. The system creates racial funding gaps that systematically disadvantage Latinx and Pacific Islander students. Federal COVID-19 stimulus funds were allocated progressively with respect to student income level; however, these funds are temporary, and districts may need to reduce budgets or identify additional funds once the federal stimulus is expended. The chapter concludes with recommendations for further reading.

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David S. Knight, Julia Duncheon, Kefi Anderson, Matthew Frizzell.

As the transition point between middle school and high school, ninth grade can either set a student up for long-term success or diminish a student’s likelihood of graduating high school altogether. Interventions that can help educators better meet the needs of students during this critical juncture represent powerful levers for driving school improvement. The Ninth Grade Success Initiative is a dropout prevention program, piloted in five Washington State high schools in 2019-20. We use multiple methods to evaluate effects on student outcomes and implementation processes. We find that the program led to improvements in course grades and, to a lesser degree, behavioral outcomes, with little change in student attendance. Data coaches perceived that this program led to more effective targeting of services to higher-need students and better preparation for the COVID-19 transition to virtual learning.

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