Date of Award

Spring 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Educational Leadership

Committee Director

William A. Owings

Committee Member

John A. Nunnery

Committee Member

James T. Roberts


In recent decades, the United States has been criticized for failing to produce citizens who can compete in a global society. Legislation, such as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, has been implemented with the intention of improving the U.S. education system. Under the guidelines of NCLB, states are tasked with meeting Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) objectives in order to receive federal monies. In addition to testing requirements, one AYP indicator used to measure academic proficiency for high school students is graduation rates. The fiscal and societal impact of students not graduating from high school can be seen when comparing unemployment rates, annual income, and tax contributions to those of graduates. With budget shortfalls at an all-time high, it is imperative that educational leaders and policymakers make well informed decisions about how to invest fiscal resources in order to yield the best results.

The current study utilizes a production function model to examine the relationship between state fiscal effort and graduation rates over time. The use of fiscal effort provides a unique perspective by identifying how high a priority education is for states based on their wealth, not simply as a function of per pupil expenditures. A 2 (fiscal effort categories) x 8 (years) repeated measures analysis of variance was used to determine the relationship between sustained increases and decreases in fiscal effort over time on graduation rates for the years post-NCLB (2002 to 2009). The categories of states were determined using a linear regression analysis to identify the 10 states with the most sustained increasing fiscal effort and the 10 states with the most sustained decreasing fiscal effort.

The results of this study did not support the interaction effect of fiscal effort categories and time on graduation rates, nor did it support the main effect of fiscal effort categories on graduation rates. The major findings from this study did show a statistically significant relationship between time and graduation rates for both increasing and decreasing fiscal effort categories. This finding suggests NCLB legislation has had a significant impact on graduation rates. Furthermore, these results refute previous research which reports high-stakes testing, commonly associated with NCLB legislation, negatively impacts graduation rates.