Does more school district administration lower educational productivity? : some evidence on the "administrative blob" in New York public schools

by Dominic J. Brewer

U.S. public schools are often criticized as overly bureaucratic: administration is said to consume too great a share of educational resources, to the detriment of educational productivity. Despite this common assertion, remarkably little is known about the resource allocation patterns of school districts, how these vary across districts, and how they have changed over time. This paper presents some evidence on resource allocation in New York state, using a panel of school districts, 1978-87. The paper then attempts to determine if there is any evidence at the district level of a systematic relationship between administrative inputs and educational output in the form of standardized test scores. A variety of statistical models is shown to yield inconsistent results, providing weak support for the contention that administrative resources are necessarily detrimental to educational productivity.

Originally published in: Economics of Education Review, v. 15, no. 2, 1996, pp. 111-124.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation reprint series. The Reprint was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1992 to 2011 that represented previously published journal articles, book chapters, and reports with the permission of the publisher. RAND reprints were formally reviewed in accordance with the publisher's editorial policy and compliant with RAND's rigorous quality assurance standards for quality and objectivity. For select current RAND journal articles, see External Publications.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.