Sample Summa Assignment

Whether rural school consolidation is altogether beneficial for students, community, and local economy?

Objection 1: Because schools, like companies, have a relationship between average cost and the number of units produced (in this case students); it would be logical to apply economies of scale or “the reduction of unit costs as size increases” to schools (Sher and Tompkins 5). Through the application of the principle of economies of scale to the educational realm, it would appear as though school consolidation and district mergers would benefit the local economy (Tholkes and Sederburg 10).

Objection 2: Consolidation of school districts aids student achievement because students are more likely to be offered advanced courses in a larger school and teachers are better equipped with effective curriculum. Because of this, students of larger schools are better prepared for college than students in small, rural schools. Thus, district consolidation would be directly beneficial to overall student achievement (Anderson 19-21).

On the contrary, most promised advantages of consolidation prove to be nothing more than myths upon further examination. Even the “economies of scale” argument has been amplified to hold greater promise of savings than it actually provides, as other costs have the potential to increase as a result of consolidation. Regardless of the lack of promised benefits, there are also several disadvantages to consolidation such as greater transportation costs, the potential destruction of community support, and even the disintegration of quality education – leading to poor levels of student achievement (Anderson 21-24).

I answer that, rural school districts should be consolidated only as a last resort in situations of declining enrollment, and that every effort should be made to preserve the quality of education and community support in light of financial adjustments. In order for district consolidation in rural areas to be truly beneficial to the students, community, and local economy; two things must be taken into account. First of all, there must be community support. In districts were school boards worked together to make the transition more smooth, consolidation was more effective and communities were able to work together instead of resist the reorganization (Anderson 51-52). Second, the density of students per square mile must be taken into consideration in order to prevent the cost of transportation from entirely cancelling any financial gains through economies of scale (Tholkes and Sederburg 12).

Reply to objection 1: One cannot advocate economies of scale without weighing the diseconomies of scale. As the size of the school increases, there are increased costs or “diseconomies” of scale in certain areas due to a greater scale of operations (Sher and Tompkins 6). The greatest increased cost as a result of consolidation is transportation, which often negates most (if not all) savings. In a research study organized by Butler and Monk, their results showed that “small schools showed greater economies of scale in that enrollment increases in small districts were associated with smaller cost increases than was the case in large districts” (Tholkes and Sederburg 13). This would mean that small schools are actually more efficient than large schools; in which case consolidation would not be beneficial to the local economy, but detrimental.

Reply to Objection 2: The student achievement argument hinges on the assumptions that larger schools actually offer advanced courses, students take the advanced courses, and that students actually learn more from those courses. However, researchers have been unable to find a substantial relationship between increased school size and student achievement (Anderson 22). According to Herbert Cox in his essay “The Effect of a Smaller Learning Community on Students in a Large High School”, “Smaller learning communities, more personalized learning environments, along with the addition of a more rigorous curriculum, have a substantial impact on the retention of students, as well as on student achievement” (21). If this is true of small communities within a larger school; it is probable that it can also be applied to rural schools, which are “small communities” in and of themselves. While smaller size alone cannot guarantee higher quality academics, it is evident that smaller schools contribute to greater student achievement through teacher and community support. This would imply that the relationship between community support and student success is direct. Thus, rural schools should be allowed to function within their original communities (Semke and Sheridian 20-23, 35-37).