BizVoice/Indiana Chamber – September/October 2017
School corporation size has a direct impact on student
achievement. And more than half of Indiana school corporations are
too small to produce the most effective outcomes, according to
research commissioned by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce
Foundation and conducted by the Ball State University Center for
Business and Economic Research (CBER).
Numerous earlier studies, both nationally and by CBER, found
that school corporations with fewer than 2,000 students are not able
to operate at optimal efficiency to maximize resources going into the
classroom. This new study –
School Corporation Size & Student
Performance: Evidence from Indiana
– (full report and Appendix available
at www.indianachamber.com/education) also documents significantly
poorer academic performance, on average, for students from these
Comprehensive analysis and modeling reveals the following
improved outcomes if school corporations contain between 2,000 and
• SAT test scores (+20.5 points)
• Advanced Placement (AP) pass rates (+14.9%)
• Eighth-grade ISTEP scores (+5%)
• Algebra and biology end of course assessment (ECA) pass rates (+4%)
“This is not about closing buildings or eliminating schools,” says
Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “It’s about
reducing per-pupil administrative costs to put more money into
classrooms, increasing pay for deserving teachers, making more STEM
classes available and, most importantly, helping ensure the best
possible student outcomes.
“That will drive per capita income and is especially critical for
smaller communities,” he continues. “Greater student achievement is
the biggest thing we can do for rural economic development and those
In 2014, 154 of Indiana’s 289 school corporations had total
enrollments of less than 2,000 students. Eighty-five of those
corporations experienced enrollment declines of 100 or more students
between 2006 and 2014.
Only 21 of Indiana’s 92 counties have a single school corporation.
Twenty-two counties have three corporations, 19 have two
corporations and 13 have four corporations. The most corporations in
a single county are 16 in Lake County and 11 in Marion County.
“With today’s fierce competition for talent, too many young people
in our state are suffering due to inadequate preparation for postsecondary
education or the workforce,” Brinegar adds. “The data show smaller
corporations are getting smaller. In many instances, it’s already too
difficult for them to overcome the challenges of limited resources.”
Ball State researchers took into account demographic and
socioeconomic factors. For example, the average SAT score of 949.5
in the smallest corporations (between 240 and 999 students) compares
to a 989.8 average in corporations with between 2,000 and 2,999
students. Even when economic differences between corporations are
factored in, that 40-point raw gap remains at more than 20.5 points.
AP course offerings are one indicator of preparation for higher
education, with higher-level math and science courses often a pre-
requisite for pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering and
mathematics) majors. Corporations with fewer than 1,000 students
offered an average of 2.69 AP courses with enrollment of 8.53
students in 2015. That compares to 5.95 offerings and 22.26 students
for corporations with between 2,000 and 2,999 students and even
New Foundation Study
Student Performance Suffers in Smaller Districts
School District Size
• In many counties with the smallest school corporations, the
level of educational attainment is among the lowest in the state
(even when factoring in socioeconomic differences).
• In 2014, 154 of Indiana’s 289 school corporations had total
enrollments of less than 2,000 students. Among school
corporations with fewer than 1,000 students, 81% had
enrollment decreases between 2006 and 2014.
• Average SAT and ACT scores are lowest for students attending
the smallest school corporations and are highest for students
attending school corporations with enrollment between 2,000
and 2,999 students.
• The percentage of students passing the 4th and 8th grade 2014
ISTEP exams is lowest in the small school corporations, indicating
that school corporation size affects not only outcome indicators
for high school students but also primary school students.
• The percentage of students passing AP exams is lowest in the
small school corporations at 22.6%, and the passing rate
increases to more than 50% in the largest school corporations.
Course Offerings/STEM Opportunities
• The average number of AP courses offered by small school
corporations (enrollment below 1,000 students) is 2.69 AP
courses. In contrast, school corporations with enrollment of
2,000 to 2,999 students had an average of almost six AP course
• Many of the STEM majors in college require calculus as a
prerequisite for upper-level courses. Math skills are also a
strong predictor of success in economic principles courses,
which are gateway courses to all business degrees. The
likelihood of offering a calculus course tends to increase with
the size of the school corporation.
• Physics 1 is offered by 55% of the smallest school corporations.
This increases to almost 83% of school corporations with
enrollment between 2,000 and 2,999.
Answering reporter questions about the study: Kevin Brinegar (right),
Indiana Chamber president and CEO, with (from left) Michael Hicks,
Ph.D., director of the Ball State University Center for Business and
Economic Research, and Thomas Rohr, Ph.D., superintendent of the
North Central Parke Community School Corp.Continued on page 41