Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name



Educational Leadership and Policy

First Advisor

Michael Addonizio


This study examined student achievement in Michigan public school districts to determine if rural school districts are demonstrating greater financial efficiency by producing higher levels of student achievement than school districts in other geographic locations with similar socioeconomics. Three models were developed using multiple regression analysis of student achievement for high school graduation rates and student proficiency rates for eleventh grade students in mathematics and English language arts as reported from the Michigan Merit Examination results. These models compared student achievement by geographic location which included a selection of 10 independent variables and a sample size of 496 Michigan public school districts that were identified as meeting the criteria for this study.

In model comparisons between rural, suburban, and urban school districts, with rural and urban the most closely related in terms of socioeconomic status, this study found rural districts are utilizing less money per-pupil than districts in other geographic locations. Furthermore, this study also found that rural districts allocated the greatest percentage of financial resources toward student instruction than any other geographical category. Rural school districts were found to have the highest graduation rates of any of the geographic locations examined in this study, yet utilized the least amount of financial resources. Furthermore, students in rural districts had similar achievement outcomes in ELA proficiency when compared with suburban school students.

Based on the findings of this study, rural school districts in Michigan are demonstrating the financial ability to "do more with less" by producing high school student graduation rates that surpass all other geographical categories, as well as ELA high school proficiency outcomes that are similar to those of students in suburban districts. This study also identified urban school districts in Michigan as utilizing more financial resources than rural districts, yet student achievement in urban districts were found to be significantly lower. Based on the results of this study, schools that are struggling financially, or struggling to increase student achievement outcomes, should explore how much of their operating expenditures are allocated directly for student instruction, and how those resources are being used to support student learning and increase academic performance.