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.

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.

Looking Abroad for Hope

November 5, 2008


HT Looking for a Christmas idea to suit the new reality? Why not a gift certificate – “For the person who has everything, but still isn’t happy.”

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Looking around for something to give me hope this morning, I find the best place to turn (for today, at least) is outside the U.S. Specifically, I turn to the recently released study in Education Next by Martin West and Ludger Woessmann finding that around the world, private school enrollment is associated with improved educational outcomes in both public and private schools, as well as lower costs.

Well-informed education wonks will say, “duh.” A large body of empirical research has long since shown, consistently, that competition improves both public school and private school outcomes here in the U.S., while lowering costs. And the U.S. has long been far, far behind the rest of the world in its largely idiosyncratic, and entirely irrational, belief that there’s somthing magical about a government school monopoly.

And private school enrollment is an imperfect proxy for competition. It’s OK to use it when it’s the best you’ve got. I’ve overseen production of some studies at the Friedman Foundation that used it this way, and I wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t think the method were acceptable. However, that said, it should be remembered that some “private schools” are more private than others. In many countries, private school curricula are controlled – sometimes almost totally so – by government. And the barriers to entry for private schools that aren’t part of a government-favored “private” school system can be extraordinary.

That said, this is yet another piece of important evidence pointing to the value of competition in education, recently affirmed (in the context of charter schools, but still) by Barack Obama. Who I understand is about to resign his Senate seat – I guess all those scandals and embarrasing Chicago machine connections the MSM kept refusing to cover finally caught up with him.

%d bloggers like this: