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Window on State Government - Susan Combs Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

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Our Approach

The research team began by assessing the data sources needed to perform the study required by the 2009 Legislature’s House Bill 3.

The Comptroller’s office created the Financial Allocation Study for Texas (FAST) to examine district and campus resource allocation – and the relationship between these allocations and student achievement.

This proved to be a complex task, as many forces influence student learning, including factors both in and outside school. Similarly, the cost of education is influenced by many factors, some beyond the districts’ control.

Expert Consultants

The research team began by assessing the data sources needed to perform the study required by the 2009 Legislature’s House Bill 3 (H.B. 3). This assessment involved collaboration between the Comptroller’s office and recognized experts in the field, including researchers at some of the state’s top institutions of higher education.

  • The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) Texas Schools Project provided detailed student data compliant with the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, allowing for analyses of student performance that cannot be made with publicly available data from the Texas Education Agency (TEA).
  • UTD’s Dan O’Brien Ph.D., Jim Parsons and Kurt Beron, Ph.D., worked with Comptroller staff to develop new academic outcome measures based on scores from the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) exams. These new indicators measure student academic growth from year to year, allowing for more accurate assessments of student progress.
  • Lori Taylor, Ph.D., of Texas A&M University provided expertise on school district costs and produced groupings of fiscal peers for comparative purposes.
  • Harrison Keller, Ph.D., of the University of Texas at Austin provided guidance on educational policy and assisted in the development of the study’s methods.

Texas Education Leaders

A Superintendent Advisory Committee representing school district leaders from across the state provided valuable input and practical suggestions for this study. Superintendents and their staffs formed working groups to discuss a series of topic areas important to this study, including:

  • school cost drivers, including those outside district control;
  • useful and reliable indicators of student performance;
  • ways in which districts and campuses can be grouped for comparison; and
  • the identification of best practices in school operations.

The Comptroller’s Superintendant Advisory Committee included:

Superintendant District
David Anthony, Ed.D. Cypress-Fairbanks ISD
Frank Belcher (now retired) Canadian ISD
Keith Bryant Bullard ISD
Gene Buinger, Ed.D. Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD
Jesus Chavez, Ed.D. Round Rock ISD
Mike Feinberg KIPP Houston (Charter)
Cynthia Garcia, Ed.D. Driscoll ISD
Lorenzo Garcia, Ed.D. El Paso ISD
Karen Garza, Ph.D. Lubbock ISD
Roland Hernandez, Ph.D. Waco ISD (now with Corpus Christi ISD)
Michael Hinojosa, Ed.D. Dallas ISD
Daniel King, Ph.D. Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD
Duncan Klussmann, Ed.D. Spring Branch ISD
Richard Middleton, Ph.D. North East ISD
Sylvester Perez, Ed.D. (now retired) Midland ISD
Carrol Thomas, Ed.D. Beaumont ISD

The Comptroller also met with a school board advisory group of Texas school trustees to discuss the study methodology and provide direction:

Trustee District
Jim de Garavilla Silsbee ISD
Karen Ellis Richardson ISD
Carol Fletcher, Ph.D. Pflugerville ISD
Israel Hinojosa Jim Hogg County ISD
Mark Miller Sealy ISD
Lynn Ramsey Shamrock ISD
Sarah Winkler Alief ISD
Cindy Warner Coppell ISD

The FAST project used technical teams and peer-review panels to validate its methods and findings.

The research team met with teachers, principals and other education groups to discuss and address their concerns regarding this project. Those who contributed include:

  • Association of Texas Professional Educators
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Michael & Susan Dell Foundation
  • Regional Education Service Center diectors
  • Texas Association of School Administrators
  • Texas Association of School Boards
  • Texas Association of School Business Officials
  • Texas Association of Secondary School Principals
  • Texas Charter School Association
  • Texas Classroom Teachers Association
  • Texas Education Agency
  • Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association
  • Texas Federation of Teachers
  • Texas Institute for Education Reform
  • Texas High Schools Project
  • Texas State Teachers Association

“While our reform efforts at the state and national level have rightly focused on student achievement, we must now look at how well we serve students in the context of how well we use precious tax dollars. This project… will help spur needed improvements in the use of resources so that they can be best deployed to improve education for all Texas students.”

– Margaret Spellings, Former U.S. Secretary of Education and CEO of Margaret Spellings & Co.

Read more reviewer comments.

Independent Review

The FAST project used two types of teams, technical teams and peer-review panels, to validate its methods and findings.

The technical teams provided guidance on the development of academic and financial performance indicators. These teams primarily comprised Texas academic and financial experts, including:

Academic Measures Team

  • Chrys Dougherty, Ph.D., National Center for Educational Achievement
  • Jon Lorence, Ph.D., University of Houston
  • Jim Van Overschelde, Ph.D., Texas Education Agency (now with E3 Alliance)
  • Lori Taylor, Ph.D., Texas A&M University
  • Dash Weerasinghe, Ph.D., Plano ISD
  • Victor Willson, Ph.D., Texas A&M University
  • Gloria Zyskowski, Ph.D., Texas Education Agency

Financial Measures Team

  • Tom Canby, Texas Association of School Business Officials
  • Jim Dyer, Ph.D., McCombs School of Business, University of Texas at Austin
  • Timothy Gronberg, Ph.D., Texas A&M University
  • Kathy Hayes, Ph.D., Southern Methodist University
  • Jim Parsons, Texas Schools Project, UT-Dallas
  • R. Anthony Rolle, Ph.D., Texas A&M University (now with University of South Florida)

After the study methods were developed, they were submitted for analysis to a pair of independent peer review panels, one for academic progress and the other for financial and efficiency measures. These panels provided recommendations and comments on the draft methodologies. Their members included:

Peer Review Panel on Academic Measures

  • Joan Herman, Ed.D., University of California, Los Angeles
  • Michael Podgursky, Ph.D., University of Missouri
  • Steven Rivkin, Ph.D., Amherst College
  • William Sanders, Ph.D., SAS Institute

Peer Review Panel on Financial Measures

  • William Duncombe, Ph.D., Syracuse University
  • Stephen Frank, Ph.D., Education Resource Strategies
  • Shawna Grosskopf, Ph.D., Oregon State University
  • Jennifer Imazeki, Ph.D., San Diego State University
  • Andrew Reschovsky, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin
  • Amy Schwartz, Ph.D., New York University