Cover: Evaluation of Delaware's Opportunity Funding and Student Success Block Grant Programs

Evaluation of Delaware's Opportunity Funding and Student Success Block Grant Programs

Third and Final Year

Published Feb 7, 2023

by Sy Doan, John Engberg, Sam Morales, Heather L. Schwartz, Lynn A. Karoly

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Research Questions

  1. How much have LEAs spent of their total Opportunity Funding and SSBG allocations?
  2. What investments did LEAs and schools make with their Opportunity Funding and SSBG?
  3. Is the expenditure of Opportunity Funding and SSBG correlated with improved performance among SEPs and MLs?

This report is the third of three annual reports evaluating the implementation and effects of two Delaware weighted funding programs designed to support Delaware's 42 school districts and charter schools (also known as local education agencies [LEAs]) enrolling students experiencing poverty (SEPs) and multilingual learners (MLs) during the 2019–2020 to 2021–2022 school years: Opportunity Funding and the Student Success Block Grant (SSBG) program.

In this report, the authors describe how Delaware's LEAs spent their Opportunity Funding and SSBG dollars, what portion of their allocations they spent, and what LEA leaders deemed their most effective investments with those dollars. They also examine whether both the allocation of the funds and the actual expenditures were associated with improved performance on spring 2022 math and reading tests. The authors use and report results from multiple quantitative designs, including cross-state comparisons of academic achievement, comparisons of the size of academic achievement gaps before and after the availability of funds, and comparisons of academic achievement between schools that did and did not expend these funds.

Since the 2019–2020 school year, the Opportunity Funding and SSBG programs have allocated nearly $100 million to Delaware LEAs to support student learning and well-being, with particular emphasis on supporting SEPs and MLs. Delaware LEAs have used these funds to make hundreds of investments, most of which are the employment of staff dedicated to support reading instruction, MLs, and student mental health.

Key Findings

  • Delaware LEAs have been allocated over $100 million in Opportunity Funding and SSBG funding and have expended roughly $86 million since 2019–2020. Allocations from both programs provide for about 1 to 3 percent of schools' expenditures each year.
  • LEAs persistently used flexible Opportunity Funding to hire staff to provide academic and social and emotional supports to SEPs and MLs.
  • Gaps in proficiency rates between student groups targeted by the Opportunity Funding and SSBG programs have narrowed since 2018–2019. The gap in proficiency rates between SEPs and students who are not experiencing poverty narrowed by roughly 5 percentage points in 2021–2022. Gaps among MLs and students who are not MLs were largely similar, narrowing by less than 1 percentage point.
  • However, the authors did not find evidence that these gaps narrowed specifically because of Opportunity Funding and SSBG funding. Academic performance among MLs declined more in Delaware than in comparison states, with mixed patterns among SEPs. Moreover, the authors found no relationship between proficiency rates among SEPs and MLs and the amounts of Opportunity Funding and SSBG that schools expended in 2021–2022.
  • As intended, schools with the highest proportions of SEPs and MLs have been the most likely to expend flexible Opportunity Funding.

Research conducted by

This study was funded through a contract with the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) and undertaken by RAND Education and Labor.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

RAND 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.