Executive Summary - Getting Down to Dollars and Cents: What Do School Districts Spend to Deliver Student-Centered Learning?

November 2012

Student-centered learning (SCL) is an approach to learning that emphasizes authentic instruction, mastery-based assessment, and engaging students in real-life experiences that take their learning beyond the school walls and school day—all in an effort to connect students’ learning to their experiences, strengths, and interests. This report offers the first detailed look into how districts and schools deal with funding issues when they adopt the SCL approach. Researchers examined district spending on SCL by comparing spending at SCL high schools to traditional high schools with similar characteristics. The researchers also performed a statistical analysis using New York City’s high schools, which included 79 SCL schools. The report finds that districts don’t need to spend more on these schools if they fund all schools fairly, and then allow schools to make choices about how they use their resources. The report's policy recommendations include encouraging SCL school leaders to think about spending tradeoffs to keep budgets in balance and supporting principals’ efforts to secure resources from the community.