But critics argue money raised by school community has big impact on quality of education.
School fundraising has sparked much controversy for creating have and have-not schools in Toronto, but has little impact on how students perform academically, says a new report.
The paper from the C.D. Howe Institute measures the money raised by elementary schools in the Toronto District School Board against students’ standardized test scores in reading, math and writing administered by the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO).
When the authors compared schools of similar backgrounds and grades, they found little difference in test results between students from big fundraisers and those with no capacity to raise extra money.
“If those funds really mattered we would expect to see those resources generate better results, and they don’t,” said David Johnson, economics professor at Wilfrid Laurier University and co-author of the think-tank’s report, released Tuesday.
In other words, they authors didn’t find an “unfair advantage.” Instead, they cite “a small but statistically significant” relationship between fundraising and test scores, with an extra $100 raised per student associated with a 1.5 percentage point increase in test pass rates by Grade 6.
“When comparing similar schools there is only a weak association between funds raised and academic outcomes,” they conclude.
The issue of fundraising by parent councils and school communities has been hotly debated, with many groups arguing it is dividing the city into have and have-not schools.
While those dollars can’t be spent on essentials like staff, more affluent schools may use them for library books, playgrounds or extra music and art programs, while needy schools are barely able to support badly-needed meal programs.
The difference in experiences for those students — and not their test results — is the reason for rising concern over the inequity created by fundraising, says Annie Kidder, executive director of the advocacy and research group People for Education.
“I’m not sure anybody has ever said fundraising has an impact on EQAO scores,” she adds.
The difference is seen “in overall quality of education rather than a score in one grade in reading, writing or math.”
The C.D. Howe report shows that moving a student from a school with no extra funds to a similar school that raises roughly $300 per student would predict an improved test score of between 3 and 4.5 percentage points.
While the authors call that minimal, Sean Meagher of Social Planning Toronto says the overall findings reinforce his belief that fundraising does play a significant role.
And while the authors say $100 per student has a small impact on academics, Meagher noted that amount translates to an extra computer for every 10 kids, which would be a big deal in many inner-city schools.
But Johnson said the research shows that while there is lots of inequity in the system and that fundraising can enrich education, that’s only half the story.
He said rather than dwelling only on the disparity between schools, it’s important to look into why there are differences in academic outcomes for kids in schools of similar backgrounds that raise different amounts of money, and the potential causes.
By Andrea Gordon – Education Reporter – http://www.bbc.com/news/education-38132401/