5 Things Equity Advocates Should Know About… The Office of Research and Education Accountability’s (OREA) Mapping Tennessee Education Data Dashboard
1. OREA’s dashboard provides a way for stakeholders to pull relevant information for engaging in legislator education.
In addition to filtering by school district, stakeholders can filter the dashboard to see the schools in a particular TN Senate or House of Representatives’ district. From there, they can look at enrollment, average staff salaries, per pupil expenditure, and classroom data for those schools. This is valuable because some legislative districts cover only part of a school district, or they may include more than one school district. Using this information, stakeholders can educate their own legislators about school enrollment, expenditures, and facilities in their own House or Senate district. Note that the dashboard does not allow you to filter by Congressional district. Use this tool from the TN General Assembly to find your legislators. To learn more about engaging in legislator education, check out this Guide to Building Your Advocacy Strategy, which is part of the Tennessee Alliance for Equity in Education’s Advocacy Hub.
2. While comparison between schools is not a built-in feature of the dashboard, stakeholders can use it to compare enrollment, school finance, and facilities information between districts.
By opening the dashboard in two browser tabs, stakeholders can see two districts at the same time. For example, by filtering to Metro Nashville Public Schools in one tab and Shelby County Schools in the other, stakeholders can see that 61% of MNPS school funding comes from local sources, compared with 43% for Shelby County. This aligns with Tennessee’s calculations of local fiscal capacity, which takes revenue into account when determining how much a county can pay to support its schools. Household income is one of the components of local revenue, among other components like property values and taxable sales. MNPS has a median household income that is $17,588 higher than Shelby County’s. By comparing other districts, stakeholders may find discrepancies in funding, staff salaries, or per pupil expenditures, which could be used to advocate for support or resources.
3. OREA’s dashboard does not break down student enrollment by race, but does provide enrollment information relevant to the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement Act (TISA).
Enrollment is only broken down by three student subgroups: English Learners, students with disabilities (called “Special Education Students” in the dashboard), and students from low-income backgrounds (called “Economically Disadvantaged” in the dashboard). Enrollment by race is crucial data for evaluating whether resources are allocated equitably among schools, but the dashboard data does provide information relevant to TISA. The categories provided cover several, but not all, of the characteristics that add extra weights for school funding under TISA. TISA allocates a consistent base amount of funding per student and adds “weights” of different percentages for economically disadvantaged students, students in areas of concentrated poverty, students with limited English proficiency, students with other unique learning needs (i.e., students with disabilities), students in rural and sparse districts, and charter school students. It is important to note that this data is from 2020-2021, while TISA allocations will be made based on this year’s enrollment data, so the dashboard can only provide rough estimates. For enrollment information by race, check the State Report Card, TDOE Data Downloads, or the OREA K-12 Dashboard.
4. Without data from past years, it is difficult to see how district enrollment, funding, expenditures, and facilities have changed over time.
Benchmarking districts against other similar districts can be useful for revealing differences between districts, but it is also important to see trends over time in one specific district. In the current dashboard, stakeholders can see that Rutherford County pays classroom teachers an average of $54,901 per year, but not how that amount may have changed since the prior year. The OREA K-12 Dashboard, on the other hand, shows that Rutherford County’s average classroom teacher salary increased by 2-4% each year from 2015-16 to 2019-20, but only by 0.09% from 2019-20 to 2020-21. Unfortunately, the OREA Per Pupil Expenditures dashboard does not provide longitudinal data on per pupil expenditures, so stakeholders are unable to see how that has changed over time.
5. Stakeholders can use information about school building conditions to advocate for improved facilities.
Research from the past few decades has found a positive relationship between the condition of a school building and student attendance and test scores. School buildings that are in good condition tend to have students with test scores that are 3%-10% higher than school buildings in poor condition. According to the dashboard, Metro Nashville Public Schools has eleven school buildings in poor condition, which amounts to 8% of all MNPS buildings. Claiborne, Monroe, Oak Ridge, and Robertson County each have between eight and thirteen buildings total, and they each have one building in poor condition. While this amounts to only five districts with buildings in poor condition, many districts have buildings in “fair” condition, which typically reach poor condition as they get older. Stakeholders can use the dashboard’s building condition information to draw attention to needs for improved facilities in their district.
- Will OREA update this dashboard yearly and add longitudinal data so stakeholders can stay informed about the effects of TISA on their district’s funding and expenditures?
- How can OREA’s dashboard, as well as other OREA publications and data tools, provide accessible ways for stakeholders to leverage data for engaging with their legislators?
- How can OREA and TDOE collaborate to strengthen public understanding of and engagement with school funding, expenditures, and facilities data?
- How can OREA improve coordination between its multiple interactive dashboards so that stakeholders know where to go for data that matters to them, such as per pupil expenditure, student enrollment by race, or teacher salary changes?