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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 also documents significantly

poorer academic performance, on average, for students from these

smaller corporations.

Comprehensive analysis and modeling reveals the following

improved outcomes if school corporations contain between 2,000 and

2,999 students:

• 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

local residents.”

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


Key Findings

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.

Student Performance

• 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