The apparent effects of consolidation on academic achievement are mixed and are difficult to pinpoint. (2000) and Schreiber (2002) found a positive relationship between large school size and academic achievement; academic and extracurricular offerings were improved, and student test scores, generally, improved as well.Lee and Smith (1995) and Harrison (2003) found the opposite to be true.A consolidated school district with over 3,000 students becomes inefficient and has higher administrative costs, on average, than did the smaller districts that were merged. In 2010, then-governor Haley Barbour established the Commission on Mississippi Educational Structure for the purpose of studying and making recommendations concerning the consolidation of Mississippi school districts.
The research on school consolidation and school/district size provides some insight into each of these considerations.
As with most things, economies of scale play a role in school district efficiency.
Within Mississippi, the actual number of students per district varies widely, too, and that is likely the case in other states.
Vermont has the fewest students per district with 268; Hawaii has by far the most with 180,728.
Click here to see details of the commission's report.
As Mississippi has merged school districts over the years, the result has been similar to the national effect.
Mississippi ranks slightly below the middle of the pack (21st of 51) with 144 districts serving half a million students.
Thirteen states have fewer than 100 school districts, and 10 states have more than 500 districts.
Our state now has 34 counties in which there is only one school district.
The administrative costs in those districts, on average, are higher than the state average.
Over the years, Mississippi has undergone significant consolidation of its public school districts, dropping from a high of well over 1,000 districts as recently as the mid-1900s to the current 142 with an additional two agricultural high schools that operate as independent districts.