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School District Regionalization in Rhode Island: Relationship with Spending and Achievement

Jason R Masterson, Johnson & Wales University


In Rhode Island, unless costs for education are controlled, taxpayers could face increased property taxes, increased sales tax on goods and services, and tax increases to existing fees to raise revenue (NEEP, 2010). Reducing the number of school districts was cited as the number two solution by the New England Economic Partnership in 2010 to control costs. However, there is opposing literature that suggests that school district regionalization does not save money. The purpose of this study was to review the established, regionalized school districts in the State of Rhode Island to determine if cost savings occurred without negatively impacting student achievement through the following research questions: To what extent has the regionalization of school districts in Rhode Island achieved financial savings? If so, following regionalization, were funds reallocated for other purposes? What trends occurred in terms of student achievement and graduation rates as compared to the rest of the state? The research design that guided this inquiry was an embedded case study design. Yin (2009) supports the use of the embedded case study design, which can be used to confirm and challenge or extend a theory that has been tested through research. The first phase of data collection consisted of reviewing achievement data (students with an IEP and low SES), and graduation rates for regionalized school district. The second phase of data collection included qualitative interviews with the participants (superintendents) of the regionalized school districts. The second phase of data collection and analysis included: preparing transcripts, finding, refining, and elaborating concepts, themes, and events; and then coding the interviews (Rubin & Rubin, 2005, p. 224). The findings demonstrated that school districts made decisions around whether to regionalize based on the need to provide a more comprehensive educational program as well as more efficient school facilities. Regionalized school districts generally performed better on state assessments than non-regionalized school districts graders except for the larger ones. They performed evenly by 2010. The findings of the study may assist policy makers and school districts in whether school district regionalizing is a viable option to save money while not negatively impacting student achievement.

Subject Area

Education finance|Education Policy|School administration

Recommended Citation

Masterson, Jason R, "School District Regionalization in Rhode Island: Relationship with Spending and Achievement" (2012). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3504498.