It’s that time of year to begin thinking about that federal program requirement of school comparability. So, what is comparability in the federal program world? The comparability requirement is intended to ensure that school districts spend as much, if not more, state and local resources on Title 1 funded schools as they do with non-Title I funded schools. In other words, non-Title I funded schools can not receive more of the district’s state and local funds because Title 1 schools receive federal funds. District, state, and local funds must be distributed equitably among all of the district’s schools without consideration of Title funding.
Comparability utilizes school enrollment, poverty percentage, and district-funded personnel. One of the challenges is determing which schools to compare. If a district has only single grade-span schools, comparability is simple. If any schools have overlapping grade spans, the schools have to be compared. The district may choose the grade spans to compare. Some districts simply compare all grade spans to each other. Using the workbook, one can try various combinations. Once the grade-span comparison is determined, the high poverty schools are compared to the lower poverty school(s). In Missississippi, we list by school all non-federally funded personnel by name, position, and percentage of FTEs (full-time teacher equivalents). Fortunately, the MDE provides us with a workbook that calculates the comparability percentages if information is entered appropriately.
If schools are not comparable using teacher units, one can try different grade span configurations and/or poverty groupings. For example, some districts with all Title I schools use two or three of the lowest poverty schools as the comparison schools. This changes the average and could make your schools comparable. Also don’t forget to include vacant positions for which you are actively looking for personnel. Another idea is to determine which instructional personnel will be included in the list. This, too, can impact your averages. If this still doesn’t work, one can compare teacher salaries. The most important thing to remember is that your process for determining comparability must match what is written in your procedures.
Good luck in completing this process. May all your schools be found comparable.