Community Assessment Data
A Guide to Understanding the Well-Being of Children & Families in Erie County, Pennsylvania

Public School Spending

Providing access to education for all students has been part of American culture for over 200 years. Public education funded by tax dollars insures that every child can receive this education and provides an educated workforce. A balance must be found between the cost of providing a quality education while preventing taxpayers from being overburdened.

School expenditures are influenced not only by the operating expenditures incurred in providing education to the current students but also by debt payments and construction costs. To most appropriately compare spending, only operating expenditures are compared herein.

Special programs such as those for children needing individualized education programs or those in gifted programs are much more expensive than normal classroom education.

Standardized School Test Achievement

The annual Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) is a standards-based criterion-referenced assessment used to measure a student’s attainment of the academic standards while also determining the degree to which school programs enable students to attain proficiency of the standards. Every Pennsylvania student in 5th, 8th and 11th grade is assessed in reading and math, and students in grades 6, 9, and 11 are assessed in writing.

In 1999, Pennsylvania adopted standards in reading, writing and mathematics. Although PSSA tests have been given for years, standards changes took place in 2000-2001 tests so informtion from 2000-20001 cannot be compared to results from the previous years.

Secondary School Dropouts

Graduating from high school is critical for pursuing post-secondary education or getting a good job. Ongoing changes in the economy have increased the financial costs of dropping out. Teens who drop out of secondary school face enormous odds for achieving financial success in life. over their lifetime, high school dropouts will earn significantly less than high school graduates and less than half of what college graduates are likely to make during their lifetime.

As America moves into the 21st century, when advanced skills and technical knowledge will be required for most good-paying jobs, the prospects for those who have not completed high school will be limited. The economic gap between those with a high school diploma and those who drop out is likely to grow.

Additionally, large numbers of dropouts create an under-educated workforce that inhibits business expansion and growth of the local economy.

Kindergarten and First Grade Retentions

Students who repeat a grade in the early part of their school careers are less likely to have had the needed skills prior to entering formal schooling. These skills include such things as knowing how to count, how to hold a book and turn pages, that letters make words that are read instead of pictures, etc.

In the state of Pennsylvania, children are not required to attend school until they are eight years old. Kindergarten, although almost universally offered, is not required. Children generally begin formal elementary school between the ages of five and six when they attend kindergarten. Most of these kindergarten classes are half-day classes in Erie County although some school districts in the state are moving to full day kindergarten when it is feasible.