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If you refer to our course syllabus, you will notice that we have 3 scheduled lab assignments during the semester.  The purpose of the lab assignment is to take your general understanding of the various methods we have covered to the next level.  To elaborate on this statement, your goal is to apply what you have learned in a way that allows you to answer practical questions and make evidence based decisions.  While this might sound like a big leap, if you generally understand the purpose of the methods we have covered and can interpret the outputs, taking your understanding to the next level is not a big leap at all.

Let me provide some guidance to help you be successful in taking your basic understanding to a higher order application.  Your first step is to identify the evaluation/research question at hand.  Next, identify the DV and IV(s). Then determine the level of measurement for each variable (e.g. categorical or continuous). Once you understand the structure of your data you can then pick the correct test.  From this point the Abu-Bader text should be your crutch!  In each chapter the author presents a Practical Example, where he walks you step by step through each method and discusses the meaning and purpose of each SPSS output. Don’t skip a step and don’t rely on your notes. (I’m sure your notes are good, but I’ve seen too many students lead themselves down the wrong path on this assignment). Your next step in this Lab assignment is to make practical meaning of the results. At the end of each Practical Example you will find a section on Writing the Results.  Follow the author’s example to write up your results!   


Review the questions below and conduct a statistical analysis to answer the question(s).  Your goal for this assignment is to identify the appropriate research questions (evaluation question), pick the variables that are most appropriate for the question, run the correct statistical test, and sufficiently interpret the results.  For this assignment assume that all assumptions are met to run the test (i.e. normal distribution, equal variances, etc.).You do not have to discuss the assumptions of each test in this lab. Ordinal level data can be treated as either categorical or continuous for this assignment to meet test criteria.I only want you to focus on picking the correct test and variables, and providing an accurate and thorough interpretation of the results. We will practice discussing assumptions in the next lab. You will be graded on the following:

  1. Identify the research/evaluation question at hand.
  2. Choosing the correct variables to answer the question/problem/issue at hand.
  3. Choosing the correct statistical test to answer the question/problem/issue.
  4. Your ability to accurately discuss the relationship between the variables in line with the test expectations.
  5.  Your ability to communicate the results in a manner that is accessible to the average person (average person means someone without a background in statistical analysis).
  6. Your ability to make meaning out of the results beyond the SPSS output.
  7. Your ability to draw a correct conclusion and make a recommendation based on the problem at hand and/or evaluation question.
  8. Including only appropriate graphs and figures.  Do not cut and paste the SPSS output into your answer.
  9. Neatness, organization, and presentation of your results and finding.

There is not a required minimum or maximum for your answers; rather,your goal is to sufficiently answer each question.

Case Study:

State XYZ uses a standardized test (such as the FCAT in Florida or the Keystone Exam in Pennsylvania) to assess the progress of students grades 3-10.  These scores are used in a variety of ways.  The scores are used to determine if students should be promoted to the next grade level.  The scores are also used to evaluate the performance of individual schools.  To the later point, individual school evaluations are used to determine state funding schemes.  Individual school are rated A+ through F, which includes a plus/minus scale.

Schools that receive an evaluation grade of C or better are guaranteed base funding set at a dollar value per student. The current base rate is $10,000 per student. (base funding rates change yearly). 

State XYZ has also developed a performance scheme to promote excellence in education.  Schools can receive incentive funding above the base rate by 1) improving evaluation scores by one full letter grade or 2) maintaining an A or A+ evaluation grade.  (Incentive payouts are updated on a yearly basis).  The current incentive rate is $1,000 per student for a one-letter grade increase and $500 per student for maintaining an A or A+ ranking.  Schools are required to use 30% of the incentive award for professional development or expenditures related to improving student education.  Schools are free to use the remaining funds as they see fit; but, most funds go toward teacher bonuses.

Schools that score below a C are penalized through a cut in their base funding.  The current penalty is a 2% cut in the base funding rate per evaluation unit (for example: a C- is one evaluation unit below and a D+ is two evaluation units below a C rating).  It should be noted that schools do have an opportunity to earn back a portion of loss funds if they adhere to and implement a variety of actions and plans outlined by the State XYZ Department of Education.

The State XYZ Department of Education is interested in learning more about the factors that influence school performance. The State XYZ Department of Education has asked you to provide answer to several questions that policy makers would like to know. 

Question 1

State XYZ Department of Education wants you to start off by answering some basic questions related to current literature. Policy makers are interested in knowing if data from their schools conforms with findings from other school systems.Previous research shows that suburban schools tend to do better than urban and rural schools largely due to the concentration of wealth, and all the factors that are associated with wealth, in the suburban areas.  Research also shows that schools with more students per teacher and more students from lower socioeconomic households tend to produce lower standardized test scores. There is also evidence that higher salary levels are associated with higher test scores.  The evidence is mixed on whether higher salaries motivates teachers to perform better or if higher salaries attracts better teachers.  Regardless, others have found a connection between salaries and performance.   

These questions are as follows (please answer each question separately):

  1. Are there differences in the mean performance grades across locations of schools (e.g. urban, suburban, and rural)? 
  2. Are there difference in mean performance grades based on class size?
  3. Are there difference in mean performance grades based on the amount of money spent per student?
  4. Are there difference in mean performance grades based on poverty levels?
  5. Are there difference in mean performance grades based on parental support?
  6. Are there difference in mean performance grades based on teacher pay?

Question 2:

Because you know that the world is not a simple place, you question the results produced in Question 1.  More specifically, you wonder if the results would be similar if you included some control variables in the model. You are particularly interested in how poverty levels might impact our understanding of how location, class size, and per student expenditures impact performance grades.

First, reconsider questions A, B, C from Question 1 by controlling for the effects of poverty.  Do your answers change when you control for poverty?

Question 3:

While working through this project, you again start to wonder about the complexities surrounding the variables.  Based on previous research we are aware that class size can impact school performance.  As the theory goes, larger classes do not allow for the one-on-one attention that is sometimes required to help students master the material.  Previous research also makes the case that many students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds bring various challenges to the classroom. 

In light of this, how do schools fare in terms of performance grades when we consider both high class size and high poverty?

Question 4:

Considering our assumptions raised in Question 3, it is reasonable to believe that the impact of large class size and high poverty might be mitigated by a motivated teacher. Previous research shows that individuals with high job satisfaction tend to be more motivated and willing to put forth an effort to deal with difficult situations.  Considering this, do the findings from Question 3 change when we control for the affect of teacher motivation?

There is also ample evidence that finds parental support impacts educational performance.  When controlling for the effects of parental support, do our findings change?

What if you control for both variables at the same time?

Question 5:

School climate is a concept that has caught the attention of researchers and education policy makers recently.  At the most basic level, school climate is a myriad of factors that when combined impact the learning environment. Common features that make up school climate include how helpful teachers are at assisting students in learning complex material, the amount of encouragement students receive to do well academically, and how safe they feel in the school setting. Researchers find that schools that have high levels of positive school climate tend to also have higher test scores. But, this relationship depends on schools performing well in all factors that make up school climate.  If a school scores low in at least one of the factors, the positive impact on higher test scores is greatly reduced.

State XYZ Department of Education recently completed a survey of school climate and is interested to know if significant difference exist betweentheir three measured factors of school climate. 

 Bonus Question:

Because of the positive results coming from school climate studies, the State XYZ Department of Education is interested in ways to boost school climate.  The State has already taken measures to make students feel safer at school through increased security and anti-bullying efforts.  Now they are turning their attention to the way teachers interact with students to impact a positive school climate. 

As with every profession, it is reasoned that increased wages might incentivize teachers to contribute to a positive school climate.  Does the data support this proposition?


Download Questions

1. A) H0: Mean performance grades across locations are equal H1: Mean performance grades across locations are not equal

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