Charting the K-12 Productivity Implosion

March 8, 2012

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Previously on JPGB, I wrote about how the world is getting better all the time, with the notable exception of K-12 education. That post included the following chart from Andrew Coulson of the Cato Institute:

So just how did we manage to pull this off? The Digest of Education Statistics illustrates how we managed it on the spending side. First, the number of teachers per pupil expanded substantially. Now I am writing this in my pajamas before having my morning caffeine, so feel free to double-check my numbers from the source.

The vast expansion of the teaching workforce is entirely overshadowed however by the truly mind-boggling expansion of the non-teacher workforce. Take special note of the ratios of teachers to non-teachers:

So the trend in the overall pupil per public school employee ratio:

So while the public school system has been busy vastly increasing employment, what has been going on with student achievement? The long-term NAEP reading trend looks like this:

 While the long-term NAEP math trend looks like this:

To sum up, we had a vast increase in the number of public school employees per student in the American public school system. In terms of outputs, we managed a two point gain in the average 17 year olds math achievement, and another point in reading. Mind you, that’s one point on a 500 point scale exam.

I’m ready to try something different.