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Improving Student Learning When Budgets Are Tight

Improving Student Learning When Budgets Are Tight

School Finance

February 2012 | 208 pages | Corwin

A how-to manual for achieving excellence despite budget cuts

How do you stay focused on increasing student learning when budget cuts threaten everything you are striving for? This book offers a comprehensive framework to enhance student achievement in good times and in bad. School reform expert Allan R. Odden outlines a school improvement action plan focused sharply on student learning and then shows how to target resources to implement each strategy in that plan. More than just a "theory" book, this text describes concrete, specific actions that can be taken immediately. Key strategies include

  • Using data to support boosting student performance
  • Focusing on effective instruction
  • Setting goals to drive resource allocation priorities
  • Establishing priorities for situations that require budget cuts
  • Hiring top teachers and providing ongoing professional development
  • Providing needed technology resources

Educators will find a wide range of real-life examples of schools and districts that have implemented these strategies and significantly improved student learning. Also included is research-based guidance for optimizing teacher and principal talent, teacher recruiting and hiring, online learning, and more. This book successfully communicates many years of work and offers well- grounded advice that will help educators move from financial frustration to effective action.

List of Tables
About the Author
1. A Plan of Action: Turning Around Low-Performing and Enhancing High-Performing Schools
A Strategic Approach to Using the Education Dollar

A Plan of Action for Dramatically Improving Student Performance


2. The Resource Needs of the Plan of Action
Details of the Resource Needs of the Plan of Action

Example of a High-Spending District That Could Cut Spending

Linking Table 2.1 to School Finance Adequacy


3. Targeting Resources to Student Learning When Budgets Are Tight
Understand and Resist the Cost Increase Pressures on Schools

An Example of Strategic Resource Reallocation for a Midwestern Middle School

More Detail on Strategic Budgeting


4. Recruiting, Developing, and Compensating Top Educator Talent: Local Practices and Supporting State Policies
Acquiring, Developing, and Retaining Teacher Talent

Teacher Salary Structures

Educator Pensions


5. Computers and Technology in Education: Costs and Online Options
Costs of Technology Software and Hardware

Using Information Technologies for Instruction


6. When Budget Cuts Are Necessary
Cost Pressures, Goals, and Principles to Guide Strategic Budgeting

Ensuring a Solid Talent Foundation in Tight Fiscal Times

Engaging in Strategic Budgeting



“This book offers a comprehensive framework to enhance student achievement in good times and in bad. It presents opportunities for schools and government to work together to strategically confront the budgetary challenges facing public education today.”

Deborah H. Cunningham, President
The Association for Education Finance and Policy

“Allan Odden’s book thoughtfully demonstrates that budgetary challenges facing our schools are immense and one that dedicated public servants are meeting with resilience and invention as they retain powerful education improvement strategies that close the achievement gap.”

Rudy Crew, Professor
USC Rossier School of Education

“Any leader who wants to understand school finance and budgeting should begin by learning from Alan Odden. This book combines research on what works to improve performance with resource implications and is filled with clear, comprehensive, and practical advice for school leaders who want to do more with less.”

Karen Hawley Miles, President and Executive Director
Education Resource Strategies, Watertown, MA

“This is the right advice at the right time for schools. Allan Odden has provided practical tips for education leaders to put their resources behind the spending areas that are shown to improve student academic performance. His book is a “how-to manual” for school leaders to improve student performance at a time of limited resources.”

Andrew Benson, Vice President
KnowledgeWorks, Cincinatti, OH

"This new book brings together many years of work in a set of ideas that are compelling and feasible, especially in the current fiscal climate. Odden provides sensible, well grounded advice that would work in any setting. This is important work that deserves not just wide reading, but action."

Ben Levin, Professor and Research Chair
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education

"This how-to guide from noted ed-school professor and school-budget expert Allan Odden offers some necessary advice for school administrators learning to wield their budget axes deftly (and a number of helpful examples of how districts are doing just that). Odden’s mission—for district leaders to make cuts intelligently rather than clumsily or politically—would lead to a radical shift in the K-12 spending paradigm. And it’s about time."

The Educational Gadfly
Fordham Institute
Key features
  • The book will be anchored in a "Plan of Action" about how schools can improve, will include multiple, specific ideas for better resource use, and will discuss how these local actions can be reinforced or structured by state policies and regulations.
  • It will address how to set priorities for situations that require budget cuts, which is the situation for many districts and schools around the country and will discuss multiple possibilities both for cutting back budgets in strategic ways and for targeting resources to the all the elements of the Plan of Action to dramatically improve student learning – regardless of the budget context.
  • It will identify 10-12 strategies that have emerged from a wide range of literature, including the turnaround literature from the last few years.
  • It will summarize new approaches for how schools and districts can acquire the teacher, principal and central office talent needed to implement rigorous, comprehensive, robust and effective educational improvement strategies in an economically stressed climate.

Sample Materials & Chapters


Chapter 1: A Plan of Action

For instructors

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