Preferences for Alternative Educational Programming in Rural Iowa K-12 Public School Districts
Swanson, Stephen L.
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In 1977 the Iowa Legislature defeated a bill which would have mandated school district reorganization in Iowa's K-12 public schools with enrollments under three hundred students. These districts would have been required to reorganize with other districts creating a new district of at least six hundred students. This would have affected forty-seven of Iowa's four hundred forty-nine public K-12 school districts. The problem. The purpose of this study was to discern the preferences of students, teachers, parents, school board members, and administrators in school districts representative of the fifty smallest K-12 public school districts in Iowa, toward selected alternatives available to rural school districts. The study was concerned with determining (1) which of the selected alternatives (sharing administrators, sharing teachers, sharing programs, sharing facilities, voluntary reorganization, or increasing local taxes) are most preferred to the groups studied, (2) which of the selected alternatives are most preferred when the four considerations of quality, efficiency, cost, and transportation are introduced, (3) the relationship of the five groups' rankings of the four considerations, and (4) the relationship of the five groups' rankings of the six alternatives. Procedure. A review of related literature provided information concerning the concept and rationale for shared services as an alternative educational programming option for rural schools and information concerning Iowa rural school districts involved with alternative educational programming. Eight of Iowa's fifty smallest school districts were randomly selected for participation in the study. Analysis of Variance was used to compare the data derived from the five groups. When the Analysis of Variance was significant, dependent t-tests were used to assess the differences between specific pairs of means. Pearson Product Moment Correlation Coefficients were utilized to determine the relationship among the five groups' rankings of the six alternatives. A Spearman Rho Correlation Coefficient was used to determine the relationship of the five groups' rankings of the four considerations. The .05 level of probability for rejection of the null hypotheses was used. Both the .05 and .01 levels were reported on the tables presented. Findings. In relation to problem 1 stated above, the general pattern from most preferred to least preferred was: sharing teachers, sharing administrators, sharing programs or facilities, increasing local taxes, and voluntary reorganization. In relation to problem 2, sharing teachers remained the most preferred alternative. When considering cost and efficiency, voluntary reorganization and increasing local taxes were least preferred. However, when quality was introduced, voluntary reorganization was preferred to increasing local taxes. When transportation was introduced, increasing local taxes was preferred to voluntary reorganization. In relation to problem 3, all groups ranked the 4 considerations in the same priority order. From highest to lowest, the priority was quality, efficiency, cost, and transportation. In relation to problem 4, the relationship of the five groups' rankings of the six alternatives, with and without the four considerations was significantly positive between all groups except teachers, who did not have any significant relationships with any of the other groups. Conclusions. Based upon the findings of this study, school board members and administrators of Iowa's rural school districts should respond to the effects of declining enrollment, spiraling operational costs, legislatively controlled budgets, and minimum curriculum standards by exploring the various alternative educational programming options available. The Iowa Department of Public Instruction should consider studying successful sharing programs, investigate alternative funding for shared programming, evaluate the current school reorganization law, and evaluate the role of the Area Education Agencies in providing more effective alternative educational services to rural school districts.
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