Does Adding More Staff Increase Education Achievement?

The Friedman Foundation released a report that studied the increase in student population versus the increase in public school employees. The report noted that nationwide for the period FY1992 to FY2009 the number of K-12 students grew 17 percent while the number of full time equivalent school employees grew 39 percent. At the same time, the number of teachers increased 32 percent and the number of administrators and other non-teaching staff increased 46 percent. Much of this growth in bureaucracy can be attributed to a large hike in the number of non-teachers, i.e., administrative and support personnel. The tremendous increase in the number of public school employees might imply an increase in student achievement.

However, Dr. Benjamin Scafidi notes in his study that student achievement during this same period remained virtually the same. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores for 17 year olds were unchanged in mathematics and actually declined in reading from 288 to 284. So much for the positive impacts on student achievement with more and more school employees.

In Alaska during the FY1992-FY2009 period, the increase in student population was 10.1 percent; increase in teachers was 11.4 percent; increase in total staff was 22.6 percent; and an increase in administrative and other non-teaching staff was 34.3 percent.  For the period 2003-2011 (only period for which data is available), eighth grade NAEP scores went from 279 to 283 in mathematics and increased from 256 to 261 in reading.

According to the ASD Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the period 2001 to 2010, the number of teachers increased from 3,236 to 3,386; the number of total employees increased from 5,394 to 6,032. Note that the number of principals and administrators increased from 269 to 346 during this same period. All the while the number of students actually decreased over the same time from 48,856 to 48,613. So, with an 11.8 percent increase in ASD employees we have a decrease of 243 students (0.5%)

We have to ask the question: What have we gained in student achievement with all these increases in education bureaucracy? The answer is very little. We have gained more non-teachers, the unions have gained more dues-paying members and power, and student achievement has remained flat. The next question to ask is: Where are all these employees and what are they doing?

Read the entire Friedman Foundation study and see how Alaska compares to the rest of the States.

As you can see from the graph below, which covers the period 2000 to 2009, staffing in the Anchorage School District increased a huge 15.3 percent while the number of students decreased by 1.5 percent.