Small Schools, Big Results: Nebraska High School Completion and Postsecondary Enrollment Rates by Size of School District

Last Updated: September 01, 1999

Small Schools, Big Results

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by Patricia E. Funk, Ph.D. and Jon Bailey for the Nebraska Alliance for Rural Education

It is widely believed that smaller schools are "inefficient" because they tend to have above average costs per pupil. Current school finance policy rests on the premise that higher costs due to small size should not be subsidized by state funds unless there is no consolidation alternative. As a result, taxpayers in small school districts may be faced with a decision to override the school levy limits, jeopardize school quality by severely cutting expenditures, or look for a consolidation option.

The purpose of this report is to re-frame the school size debate by demonstrating the excellent performance of Nebraska's small schools in two fundamental areas of student outcome: high school completion and postsecondary enrollment rates, and by offering an alternative measure of cost efficiency that includes student outcomes. These outcome measures are calculated as annual averages based on data for 1991-92 through 1994-95 from the National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data and the Nebraska Department of Education, and for 1990 to 1998 data from the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education.