Financial, Equity, and Systems Gap Analysis: Removing Barriers and Creating Opportunities in Education in Beaver County, Pennsylvania

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Date
2021-11
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Volume Title
Publisher
Center for Research and Reform in Education
Abstract
The Center for Research and Reform in Education (CRRE) at Johns Hopkins University, in collaboration with Community Catalyst Partners (CCP), and The Management Solution (TMS) conducted a year-long, multi-faceted study for the Quality Education Council (QEC) of the Beaver County Partnership for Community and Economic Growth. The QEC is one of five pillars identified by the Beaver County partnership to grow the county. We specifically designed our study to address Phase III goals of the QEC’s four-phase initiative to “provide a high-level overview of the county’s current public education system within the context of demographic trends and fiscal sustainability” through several focuses: • Benchmarking six communities, four in Pennsylvania and two out of state, that have demonstrated success in population growth and quality of education, for purposes of identifying potential strategies and best practices for achieving quality education and community development. • Stakeholder Analysis and Engagement for purposes of developing cross-sector community buy-in and trust, critical feedback, and ideas to inform immediate recommendations and Phase IV implementation planning. • Financial Analyses for purposes of identifying revenue and expenditure practices by county school districts over time and relative to the benchmark communities and enrollment patterns. The Benchmarking study was designed to examine the educational practices, strategies, and programs employed by high-achieving school systems outside of Beaver County. The purpose was to identify potential strategies that the county may consider as it plans and implements solution activities in Phase IV. For this portion of the project, we conducted case studies of select communities, four in Pennsylvania and two out of state. From a comprehensive initial search for comparison counties, we selected the following six as the benchmarking sample: (1) Allegan County, MI; (2) Butler County, PA; (3) Cameron County, TX; (4) Dauphin County, PA; (5) Pittsburgh, PA; and (6) York County, PA. These communities were those that we identified as having high quality educational programming and population stability or growth, as well as characteristics that appeared well-aligned with the goals of achieving educational equity and success across a diverse array of schools. Pittsburgh, a geographically close urban center, was selected based on strong QEC interest. Cameron County, in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, was selected based on its participation in recent initiatives to develop community partnerships and improve education. Findings from these case studies revealed that within the benchmarking communities, four key areas appeared to be consistently prioritized by local school district and community leaders as the central focal points of their programming, budgeting, and strategizing. These focal points included (1) college and career readiness, (2) academic quality, (3) equity and opportunity, and (4) parent and community engagement. For each of these areas, we identify key programs implemented by the communities as potential considerations for adaptation by Beaver County. The main technical report provides case study overviews of each benchmarking community and also details these exemplar programs with regard to rationale, implementation, and outcomes.
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Keywords
community economic growth, public education equity, demographic trends
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