Frequently Asked Questions

If your question is not answered here, contact us.

If you have a specific data questions, please e-mail your question to us and include a daytime phone number and contact name.

What’s New?

The FAST methodology has incorporated available STAAR tests into the academic model.The financial model now uses the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) to calculate the Comparable Wage Index (CWI).

Care is taken to keep the Fiscal Peers groups as consistent as possible from year to year. Fiscal Peers are used in conducting cost comparison among districts and campuses. For more information, read the latest FAST methodology.

The latest campus and district lists, as well as lists of fiscal peers can be found in the Results section.

Results from 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010 can be found by clicking View previous results or from the top navigation.

In addition, all data files from current and past releases are available for download at the FAST Data Download page and the Comptroller’s Data Center.

FAST data from the 2014 release will be available in the 2012-13 school year files. In addition, lists of fiscal peers from are available at the FAST Data Download page.

FAST ratings can change for a number of reasons. Factors may include relative student progress or spending, the makeup of the financial comparison group (fiscal peers), fiscal peer expenditures and financial adjustments related to shared-service arrangements. Contact us for more information.

FAST Tracker offers an unprecedented wealth of information on multiple factors affecting student achievement and school spending, including both ratings and statistics from the Texas Education Agency as well as new indicators developed for the FAST program. You can view extensive data sets, generate reports and download the results.

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The Financial Allocation Study for Texas (FAST) is a detailed study of Texas public school funding and its relation to academic achievement. An accompanying Web-based tool allows anyone with Internet access to see the results of the study and to use its data to compare school districts with one another on measures of spending and academic success.

The 2009 Texas Legislature’s House Bill 3 required the Texas Comptroller’s office to conduct this study.

Public education is the largest single expense faced by Texas’ state and local governments. School districts that operate efficiently — achieving strong academic performance while keeping costs low — offer valuable examples for other districts.

Strategies used by the high-performing districts identified here could help our Texas slow the rapid growth of educational spending while ensuring that our high school graduates are ready to succeed in college or the work force.

FAST can be used to identify Texas school districts that produce high achievement while maintaining cost-effective operations among their fiscal peers, based on academic and financial performance indicators developed especially for this study.

We made every effort to compare school districts and campuses on a level playing field – a difficult task, given Texas’ great size and diversity. We consulted with public education stakeholders throughout the state, and we worked with nationally-recognized experts in the field of school finance and student achievement.

FAST assesses districts and campuses based on the academic progress of their students after adjusting for factors outside a district’s control that affect student performance, such as student demographics, economic disadvantage and limited English proficiency. When comparing district and campus spending, the FAST report groups districts and campuses into sets of “fiscal peers” – up to 40 districts or campuses that operate in similar cost environments, based on factors that affect the cost of providing education, such as regional wages, district size and student characteristics.

Once a set of fiscal peers is established, each district and campus is placed into one of five “spending index” categories, from “very low” to “very high.” Academic progress scores are then matched with the spending index to create an overall FAST rating, ranging from one to five stars. This is not a top to bottom ranking of all 1,000-plus districts, because we do not think that is useful or accurate.

No single ranking of school district performance could account for all the factors that affect student achievement and operational cost-effectiveness. FAST is unique in that it views school performance through multiple “lenses” — mechanisms that take into account of the wide variety of circumstances in which Texas districts operate, some of them beyond the schools’ control.

For this reason, this study does NOT provide a 1 to 1,200 ranking of district performance. Rather, districts and campuses are grouped into fiscal peer groups for spending comparison purposes and ranked within those groups. The average fiscal peer group size is 39.

To ensure that all school districts are rated on a level playing field, our academic progress measures involve 32 variables (including factors such as student demographics, economic disadvantage and limited English proficiency), while our spending methodology controls for eight variables (such as labor costs, enrollment and geographic size) to determine the most relevant fiscal peer groups. This method allows us to make fair and accurate appraisals of relative school district and campus success.

No. FAST is not a top-to-bottom ranking of every school district or campus in Texas. Given the vast differences in funding, student characteristics and community conditions across the state, such comparisons are neither plausible nor useful.

Instead, it examines Texas school districts and campuses by two measures: academic progress, as measured by student performance over time on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) tests and the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests; and relative cost-effectiveness, as measured by the Comptroller-developed spending index.

The measure of academic progress — based on three years’ worth of test results and adjusted for a series of factors affecting student performance — can be used for statewide comparisons.

The spending index, by contrast, compares district and campus performance to that of a series of up to 40 fiscal peers with comparable socioeconomic and financial characteristics, to ensure a level playing field.

Our star ratings combine the measures of academic progress and cost-effectiveness to identify Texas school districts and campuses with the highest relative academic progress and lowest relative spending (with spending compared only within their fiscal peer group).

The FAST project involved extensive collaboration between the Comptroller’s office and recognized experts in the field both in Texas and across the United States.

The project’s methods were developed with the assistance of researchers at some of the state’s top institutions of higher education.

The FAST team also received input and practical suggestions on the development of the underlying methodology from a Superintendent Advisory Committee representing district leaders from across the state, as well as an advisory group of Texas school board members. The team also met with teachers, principals and education groups to discuss and address their concerns before the results were calculated.

Districts and campuses each receive a FAST Rating of between one and five stars. The rating is a quick metric that provides a snapshot of the district’s or campus’ academic progress compared to its relative spending within its fiscal peer group. Five stars is highest FAST rating a district or campus can receive. See the About the Data for more information.

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If you want to improve your school’s or district’s FAST rating, there are several steps you can take:

  1. Use the FAST reporting tool to compare your school or district with five-star schools or districts that are similar to yours in size and/or other factors such as geographic location, demographics, etc. Review their spending patterns, student achievement statistics, Texas Education Agency accountability ratings and more.
  2. Review the Smart Practices to see the innovative ways schools and districts across Texas are saving costs and improving student achievement. Seek ways to interact with other schools and districts through forums such as chat rooms, message boards and other social media channels.
  3. Form a committee of your community’s brightest and best teachers, public officials and business and education leaders. Meet once a month to discuss ways in which you can improve academic achievement in your school or district while reducing costs and review your state-mandated district and campus improvement plans to make sure they address these goals.
  4. Work with your regional education service center (ESC) and the Comptroller’s office to identify ways your school or district can maximize efficiencies, such as by buying in bulk. Texas’ 20 regional ESCs play an integral role in providing essential services to school districts. A list of the state’s regional ESCs and their contact information is available online.
  5. The Texas Education Agency (TEA), Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA) and Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) all have annual conferences and meetings. Contact these organizations to attend workshops on ways to improve efficiency and save money in your school or district. Visit the Texas Education Agency, Texas Association of School Administrators and Texas Association of School Boards for more information.
  6. TEA provides leadership, guidance and resources to help schools meet the educational needs of all students. The Comptroller’s office oversees state purchasing, awarding and managing hundreds of contracts on behalf of more than 200 state agencies as well as local governments. Both TEA and the Comptroller’s office stand ready to help your school or district identify ways to improve academic achievement and streamline purchasing. Visit the Texas Education Agency or State Purchasing for more information.

For a printable FAST overview of every school district and campus, visit the Results section to download the lists in PDF format.

To learn more about public education in Texas, visit the Texas Education Agency website.

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Smart Practices

To identify Smart Practices, we contacted “five-star” districts identified in the FAST analysis and asked them to describe strategies and programs they credit as contributing to their success.

We also contacted other districts with strong academic performance or low spending relative to their fiscal peers.

Finally, we consulted experts in the field – superintendents, school board members, staff at regional education service centers, stakeholder associations and others with knowledge of effective school district practices – who identified other school districts that might offer additional “smart practice” ideas.

The Smart Practices section will continue to grow as new information is shared by districts.

A Smart Practice must meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • has proven to be an effective practice for containing, reducing or avoiding costs;
  • improves the efficiency and effectiveness of educational program delivery, including demonstrated improvement in student performance;
  • is estimated to produce a significant long-term return on investment for the district;
  • has significantly increased purchasing power though the use of purchasing partnerships;
  • has realized efficiencies through the use of shared-service arrangements with other districts; and/or
  • can be implemented by other districts.

We welcome such input from Texas school districts and individual campuses and encourage them to contact us.

Most Smart Practices identified in FAST are not limited to the specific circumstances of a single school district – they can be used or adapted by other districts that wish to improve their cost-effectiveness and service delivery.

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FAST Tracker

FAST Tracker offers an unprecedented wealth of information on multiple factors affecting student achievement and school spending, including both ratings and statistics from the Texas Education Agency as well as new indicators developed for the FAST program. You can view extensive data sets, generate reports and download the results.

Detailed profiles

FAST Tracker gives you detailed profiles of every district and campus in the state in Texas. These profiles include:

  • Unique FAST measures of academic progress and spending indexes within fiscal peer groups developed specifically for this study;
  • More than 30 other measures of academic performance such as STAAR, college readiness and drop-out rates;
  • More than 40 financial indicators, such as details on spending by program and by object, payroll for instructional versus non-instructional staff, revenues and fund balance; and
  • More than 60 other indicators such as teacher and student demographics, teacher turnover rates, teacher education level and more.

Not only can you view these statistics for a district or campus, but now you see them in the context of their peer group. And many indicators are shown over time so you can identify trends.

Compare districts and campuses

You also can use the detailed selection criteria to compare similar districts or similar campuses with the ability to filter your choices:

  • by FAST metrics – view by FAST Rating, FAST academic progress percentile, or Spending Index
  • by characteristics – view by TEA accountability ratings, enrollment size, or district type
  • by additional detailed filters – narrow your choices to select districts or campuses with similar demographics, such as ethnicity, percent economically disadvantaged, and more for the closest and most accurate comparisons.
See the big picture with State data

See important summary academic and spending data on a statewide basis for a holistic look at how districts and campuses compare to the state averages.

Print and Download

Print key results for future reference or download the data to slice and dice on your own.

Start by clicking FAST Tracker in the navigation bar.

The first time you visit FAST Tracker, you will be presented with a disclaimer which provides important context about FAST Tracker and the care that must be taken when comparing districts or campuses that face very different challenges and opportunities. Click “I have read and understand this disclaimer,” and you will be able use the tool. You should only need to click the disclaimer once unless you delete or disable cookies on your browser.

More information about FAST Tracker can be found at Getting Started and List of Indicators under Help in the navigation.

Parents can use the FAST site to learn more about:

  • how your child’s Texas school district or campus is faring academically;
  • how dollars are being spent compared to relevant fiscal peers;
  • how much revenue is collected;
  • how the district or campus compares to other districts or campuses

You can also find detailed information on teacher education levels, teacher turnover rates and student/teacher demographics.

The unique methodology employed for the FAST report is designed to provide a fair and level playing field for districts and campuses to compare academic progress and relative spending with an eye on self-improvement.

You can run detailed FAST reports to compare their district or campus with others in the state that share the same challenges and opportunities. You can compare relative spending and academic progress to emulate successful financial allocation practices.

They also can read and contribute to FAST’s Smart Practices,, which offer a growing list of proven cost-saving strategies by schools across the state.

As a large and diverse state, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for comparing all school districts and campuses. FAST strives to offer a level playing field for closely studying relative academic progress and spending levels to point the way toward opportunities for efficiencies.

You can use FAST to gain an overall view of public education spending, how specific districts and campuses are balancing strong academic progress while spending less than their fiscal peers, and Smart Practices that schools across the state can consider for saving money.

  • Drop-out data? Drop-out student data is available under the Academic section.
  • STAAR score information? State academic testing information is available under the Academic section.
  • Payroll for instructional vs. non-instructional staff? Payroll information is available under the Finances section.
  • Spending by program? Spending information is available under “Spending” in the the Finances section.
  • Fund balance information? Fund balance information is available under the Finances section.
  • Student/teacher demographics? Demographic information for students and teachers such as ethnicity, enrollment and class size is available in the Demographics section.
  • Teacher years of experience? Teacher experience information is available under ‘Faculty and Staff Demographics’ in the Demographics section.

Visit the Help section of the FAST website for guides and tutorials on using FAST Tracker.

Visit the Glossary section of the FAST website for details on the terms and data points used in FAST Tracker.

The data in FAST Tracker will be updated on an annual basis as new information is available from the Texas Education Agency and the analysis has been conducted for the FAST measures.

All of the data available to view in FAST Tracker can also be downloaded in the Comptroller’s Data Center, which provides access to key raw datasets available from the Comptroller’s office. In addition, datasets can be downloaded within FAST Tracker on a page-per-page basis.

The best contact for questions about specific district or campus academic details or spending/financial details is the district or campus itself. If you have questions about the methodology used in FAST for the FAST rating, academic progress measures or the spending index, you can contact us.

Feedback on the FAST methodology and FAST Tracker is welcome and encouraged. Visit the Contact page to share your thoughts and comments.


The Comptroller’s FAST team compiled the scores with input from school officials and educational experts from throughout the state.

The FAST rating combines measures of both academic progress and spending to identify school districts responsible for strong academic progress and cost-effective operations. Districts are assigned a rating from one to five stars indicating their success in combining prudent spending with academic success.

The math and reading progress scores used in FAST are drawn from three years of results on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) and the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests. Our academic composite progress rating combines these math and reading scores into a single measure of student success that gauges student gains over time, controlling for various student characteristics that affect academic performance.

The FAST spending index measures relative school district spending. It compares financial data for each district to that of other districts that can be considered “fiscal peers,” in that they are of similar size, serve similar students and face similar wage requirements.

Texas school districts operate in a wide variety of “cost environments” – the socioeconomic and geographic characteristics that influence the cost of education and are often beyond the school district’s control.

The FAST team evaluated financial data for each district by comparing them to other districts or campuses that can be considered “fiscal peers,” in that they:

  • operate in similar cost environments;
  • are of similar size;
  • serve similar students.

To identify fiscal peers, the FAST team employed a technique called propensity-score matching to identify up to 40 peers for each Texas school district, based on common cost factors such as teacher and other employee wages, enrollment size and student demographics.

Based on these comparisons, each district received a financial rating, a “spending index” ranging from very low to very high, with very low indicating the lowest relative spending in the fiscal peer group and very high representing the highest.

For more information on the FAST methodology, go to the FAST Methodology page.

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