District Y is a small urban school system located in northern California, serving about 2,400 K-8 students in its seven schools. Like many districts in the state, it faces significant enrollment decline and with it, a worsening budget deficit. District Y students have high needs - in every school, more than 80% of students live in poverty, many students have experienced trauma, and the district’s special education population is higher than the state average. In early 2019, leaders wanted to better understand current spending patterns and how to reallocate scarce resources to support their key strategies for student success.
In that context, District Y called upon ERS for a quick turn-around analysis of the district’s resource use that we call the Rapid Budget Diagnostic. The project is based on ERS’ nearly fifteen years of experience working with school systems around the country, where we typically undertake an in-depth, months-long analysis of financial, human capital, and school-level data. This rapid diagnostic, however, was accomplished in under a week.
Over four days, the ERS team worked intensively to gather, analyze, and make meaning of both quantitative and qualitative data from interviews as well as district financial, HR and student information data. ERS’ analysis highlighted the following takeaways, among others:
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The ERS team also identified opportunities for District Y to reallocate resources toward their priorities. These include:
The findings above are typical of those the ERS uncovers through the Rapid Diagnostic. Both ERS and the districts where we have conducted the diagnostic have found that it can be a powerful - and streamlined - way for districts to uncover quick answers to important questions about their resource use and to identify opportunities to use resources more powerfully.
Next Steps: The Strategic System Snapshot | Mini is a 10 minute online assessment that asks district leaders to compare their resource use to best practices found in research and at high-performing districts from around the country. Completing the Snapshot | Mini is a good first step to understand further areas of inquiry in a Rapid Budget Diagnostic or other analysis.
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