Explain It To Me: Test Scores Versus Spending

Oct 7, 2022 | Wisconsin Voices Blog

Context from IRG Senior Research Director Quinton Klabon:

Quinton Klabon

  • What happened? It’s test score season. We now know how children struggled in 2022. But we are often asked, “Are we getting our taxes’ worth?” Let’s compare districts with similar poverty levels using 2021’s boosted spending and 2022 reading proficiency.
    • Sauk Prairie: $15,843 per student, 36% proficiency
    • Eau Claire: $13,804 per student, 45% proficiency
    • Beloit: $17,493 per student, 13% proficiency
    • West Allis: $14,333 per student, 28% proficiency
    • Wausau: $16,032 per student, 39% proficiency
    • Stevens Point: $14,313 per student, 39% proficiency
    • Green Bay: $15,697 per student, 23% proficiency
    • Sheboygan: $13,804 per student, 31% proficiency

  • Why is it important? Smart spending can attract staff and transform students. However, districts can struggle to allocate people and buildings as enrollment declines. Many accumulate good-intentioned initiatives without asking whether they move the needle. There will be lots of competition within our next state budget, so making every dollar effective matters.
  • What’s next? Wisconsin will see how it compares to other states on October 24th, the NAEP release date. If we continue to fall behind. In the meantime, examine your city’s spending here and here.