CPRE : Consortium for Policy Research in Education

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Policy Bulletins

Rethinking the Allocation of Teaching Resources

School reform proposals vary in their details, but all call for dramatically improving student achievement. Plans to accomplish this goal usually include implementing a high-standards curriculum, instructional strategies that create more time for individual attention for students, and increasing time for teacher planning and learning. In an era of belt-tightening and rising student enrollments, finding the resources for these reforms will require schools to reexamine the use of every dollar. Efforts to redirect dollars from administrative or operational functions have attracted considerable publicity, but little attention has been paid to rethinking the use of existing instructional resources— such as teachers, support professionals and technology—the most important and expensive resources available to schools.

The basic structure of schools is strikingly similar across districts and new resources have been added largely around the regular classroom rather than into it. Despite familiar calls for “restructuring”, a number of surveys suggest that public schools rarely engage in major reorganization of resources. From 1960 to 1992, the number of pupils per teacher dropped from 26 to 18 while regular education class sizes changed very little. At the same time, the proportion of school staff classified as teachers has dropped from 70 to 53 percent, of which only about three-quarters are regularly engaged in classroom teaching.

To understand how schools might rethink the use of time and teaching resources, this study details the experience of five urban schools with high and improving student achievement that have broken with tradition by using similar levels of resources very differently. Although the schools look very different from one another, they share six principles of resource allocation implemented in varied ways depending on their instructional strategy.

Publication Date

May 1998