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Study: Student performance suffers in smaller school districts

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - A new study finds students in smaller school districts are not performing as well as students in larger districts. The Indiana Chamber recommends smaller districts consider mergers to save money and improve student outcomes.

The study was commissioned by the Indiana Chamber and carried out by the Ball State University Center for Business and Economic Research.

Researchers found school districts with less than 2,000 students struggle to offer as many advanced courses or hire teachers with specific skills - all while dealing with high operational costs.

According to the study, the limits on resources lead to a performance gap.

"Right now, we have too many kids in our state, we think the study shows, that are disadvantaged because of size of school district that they live in," said Kevin Brinegar, president of the Indiana Chamber.

The report reveals a 14.9 percent difference in the number of students passing Advanced Placement exams and a 20.5 point difference in SAT scores.

"That affects their ability to progress post- secondarily, affects what degrees and careers they can pursue after high school and affects them economically," Brinegar said.

The Indiana Chamber is making several recommendations including offering financial incentives to small districts that decide to merge or share services such as bus transportation.

"These districts are only getting smaller, they’re not going to grow their way out of this problem," Brinegar said.

"I’m not going to advocate for consolidation for any school corporation," said Michael Hicks, one of the authors of the study. "Every small school ought to look at it."

Students in smaller districts are not lagging behind in all areas. The study found district size did not have an impact on fourth grade ISTEP scores or the English end-of-course exam.

For the full report, click here.