Common Core’s Finland Du Jour, or, Who Asked the Bishops?

October 21, 2013


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

As long as we’re talking about the “Finalnd Du Jour” problem, Eric (or possibly Erik?) Hanushek has a good little piece in U.S. News arguing against Common Core, pointing out (among other arguments) that it’s being widely defended using FDJ thinking: “Proponents of national standards point to Massachusetts: strong standards and top results. But California, a second state noted for its high learning standards, balances Massachusetts: strong standards and bottom results.” Hanushek’s piece emphasizes how little a difference standards usually make to education: “Just setting a different goal – even if backed by intensive professional development, new textbooks, etc. – has not historically had much influence as we look across state outcomes.”

Meanwhile, in Crisis magazine, Anne Hendershott notes the widespread upending of curricula in Catholic schools being undertaken in the name of CC and asks, when did Catholic superintendents get the authority to make these far-reaching changes without consulting the bishops? So far there’s no reason to think CC will be any more effective at improving education than the Obamacare exchanges are at getting people enrolled in subsidized heath plans, but it would appear CC has been very effective in undermining religious liberty. Or what else do you call it when church-affiliated schools are more responsive to federal diktats than to their own clergy?


Read ‘Em and Weep Edureactionaries

November 14, 2012

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

There is a great deal of interesting material in the Hanushek, Peterson and Woessmann study on international/American state academic achievement. Below however is the chart from the Ed Next version that I found most interesting:

Focusing on the 4th Grade Mathematics exam between 1992 and 2009, the authors found that increasing spending does not have a strong relationship with improved student learning. Par for the course.

Take a close look at the top of the chart however in terms of the states making large gains and how much additional revenue per pupil they spent to get them.

The states showing the top gains (in order) are Maryland, Florida, Delaware and Massachusetts. MD, FL and DE essentially tie with MA slightly behind.

Notice however that the inflation adjusted spending per pupil increase in Florida between 1992 and 2009 was $1,000. In Delaware it was $3,000. Maryland looks near the midpoint between $4,000 and $5,000 so lets roughly call it $4,500. Massachusetts looks to be $5,000.

So Florida managed first class gains with a much smaller increase in funding. If I were to go and look up the numbers, we would find that Florida’s smaller increase also came from a smaller base- MD, DE and MA were all likely to have been outspending Florida in 1992 and then really outspending them in 2009.

It is also worth noting that Florida faces considerably greater demographic challenges than MD, DE or MA- far more free and reduced lunch eligible children, more ELL kids, and to the extent you want to factor race/ethnicity into the equation it is a far more diverse state with a majority-minority student population.

So conflict-adverse state policymakers with extra billions of dollars burning a hole in their pocket and very wealthy and pale complected students should study MD, DE and MA for clues on how to improve their student outcomes.

If however you live in a state with average or above student diversity, real budgetary constraints on the amount you can spend on K-12 and strong competing demands for any additional revenue you are likely to scrape up, you should study Florida. In fact you should study Florida regardless unless you lack the guts for a good tussel.

P.S. Notice that NY and WY both had gigantic spending increases (an inflation adjusted $6k per student) only to achieve average and below-average gains respectively. At least WY is just wasting money they are pumping out of the ground. NY seems intent to drive their citizens out of state. Taxpayers and especially students are the losers in both cases.

Schultz and Hanushek in WSJ

May 1, 2012

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Good column from the Hoover duo in today’s WSJ:

Hispanics attending school in California perform no better than the average student in Mexico, a level comparable to the typical student in Kazakhstan. An alarming 43% of Hispanic students in California did not complete high school between 2005 and 2009, and only 10% attained a college degree.

Anyone worried about income disparity in America should be deeply disturbed. The failure of the K-12 education system for so many students means that issues associated with income distribution—including higher taxes and less freedom in labor and capital markets—will be an ever-present and distressing aspect of our future.

Examples abound of the ability to make sharp improvements in our K-12 system. By not insisting on immediate and widespread reform we are forgoing substantial growth in our standard of living. The problem is obvious. The stakes are enormous. The solutions are within our reach.

Hanushek in WSJ: “FINISH HIM!”

October 19, 2010

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

In today’s Journal, Eric Hanushek seems to agree with our conclusion that the war of ideas is over:

No longer is education reform an issue of liberals vs. conservatives.

Translated from Academese into ordinary Geek English, that reads: FINISH HIM!

A Mind is An Expensive Thing to Waste

January 31, 2010

Economists Rick Hanushek and Ludger Woessmann presented a paper last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, showing just how much in dollars and sense it costs not to raise student achievement.  If the U.S. could increase its average score on the PISA test by 25 points over the next twenty years (less than Poland did over the last six years) it “would result in an increase in the U.S. GDP of $40 trillion over the lifetime of the generation born in 2010.” 

Now that would be a stimulus plan.  But remember that average U.S. students achievement for 17 year olds has been stagnant for at least four decades despite more than doubling real expenditures per pupil.  So this stimulus plan requires something other than money.  It requires structural changes in public education to produce more achievement for every dollar already spent.

The new report by Hanushek and Woessmann builds on an earlier study that you can see in this Education Next article.