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Eric Hanushek on the Education, Skills, and the Millennium Development Goals (July 27, 2015)

How important are basic skills for economic success and growth? Eric Hanushek of Stanford University's Hoover Institution talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the importance of basic education in math and literacy and their relationship to economic growth. Hanushek argues that excellence in educating people in basic skills leads to economic growth, especially in poorer countries where years of education may be a poor proxy for learning.

Not in the Right Ballpark (July 20, 2015)

My critique of the paper by Jackson, Johnson, and Persico is very simple and might be lost in the dazzling misdirection of their response. When I learned computer programming, I was taught to use simplified approximations of results to make sure that my more complicated, and harder to check, programs produced answers that were in the right ballpark. This step apparently is no longer taught.

Does Money Matter after All? (July 07, 2015)

Considerable prior research has failed to find a consistent relationship between school spending and student performance, making skepticism about such a relationship the conventional wisdom. Given that skepticism, new studies that purport to find a systematic relationship between school spending and student performance get disproportionate attention. Kirabo Jackson, Rucker C. Johnson, and Claudia Persico offer a new study suggesting that a clear money-performance relationship exists if you just look in the right place. Nonetheless, we really cannot get around the necessity of focusing on how money is spent on schools.

Teach all young people universal basic skills by 2030 – it will give huge boost to GDP (May 18, 2015)

Ministers and education officials from a wide range of countries and international agencies are converging on Incheon in the Republic of Korea this week to discuss a new set of development goals at the World Education Forum. A draft document lays out a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will follow on from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that included education goals to be accomplished by 2015. The MDGs called for universal access to secondary schooling and showed real progress: primary school enrolment rates in South Asia rose from 78% in 1999 to 94% in 2012 while they moved from 59% to 79% in sub-Saharan Africa over the same period. Unfortunately, the best available evidence shows that many of the students appeared not to learn anything. The evidence on international achievement tests showed dismal levels of knowledge for many of the countries that improved in school access – seat time is not the same as learning.

Not Enough Value to Justify More of the Same (March 26, 2015)

It is hard getting around the historic facts. Real per pupil spending has more than doubled in the past 40 years, but the mathematics and reading scores of 17-year-olds have barely budged. We must recognize that more of the same is unlikely to yield better results – and by implication reform through spending is not the way to improvement.

An Evaluation System Linked to Retention and Reward Is Vital (March 03, 2015)

Despite decades of study and enormous effort, we know little about how to train or select high quality teachers. We do know, however, that there are huge differences in the effectiveness of classroom teachers and that these differences can be observed.

Given this situation, the path to improvement rests with enhanced evaluation systems for teachers combined with better personnel systems that link retention and reward to effectiveness.

The UFT’s wasteful class-size push: Research says teacher quality trumps quantity (December 12, 2014)

It’s like the bad penny that keeps appearing, only it costs hundreds of millions of dollars. The city teachers union has begun pushing a new property-tax proposal tied to a union employment program. Everyone would be better off if they just stuck to teaching kids.

How Teachers Unions Use 'Common Core' to Undermine Reform (July 01, 2014)
This year's battle over the introduction of Common Core standards in public schools has diverted attention from a more important but quieter battle led by teachers unions to eliminate school accountability and teacher evaluations. These two measures are the real engines that will drive educational improvement, and it's critical that attempts to do away with them be blocked.
There Is No War On Teachers (June 11, 2014)
In a stunning decision, a judge in the California Superior Court has ruled that, because education is a fundamental right of California youth, the laws governing teacher tenure, teacher dismissal and rules for layoffs are unconstitutional. This ruling only applies to California – and surely will be appealed by the teachers union – but it could open up consideration of students' rights in a larger number of states.
More Easily Firing Bad Teachers Helps Everyone (June 11, 2014)
Teacher tenure discussions often suggest that what is in the best interest of teachers is also in the best interest of students. But the groundbreaking decision in the Vergara case makes it clear that early, and effectively irreversible, decisions about teacher tenure have real costs for students and ultimately all of society.
Kansas Courts Get It Right (March 12, 2014)
There is a small community that closely watches the various school finance court cases that are always creating background noise for education policy discussions. This community was rewarded last week with a new decision from the Kansas Supreme Court. Importantly, its decision in Gannon v. Kansas potentially signals a new direction for these cases. Instead of deciding whether or not the Kansas legislature had dedicated sufficient funds to its local schools, it chose to highlight the importance of student outcomes.
Why the U.S. Results on PISA Matter (January 08, 2014)
According to PISA, the United States placed significantly below the average for member-nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development for mathematics—and significantly worse than the OECD distribution at both ends of the assessment spectrum, with more low performers and fewer high performers. By historical patterns, improving our achievement – which identifies the human capital of our workforce in the future – has huge economic ramifications. Education Week, January 8, 2014
America’s schools earn a ‘C’ on their report card (December 06, 2013)

There’s nothing more tiresome than when a Cabinet secretary holds a major news conference when there is no news to announce. It is like the obligatory press conference of the NFL coach of a losing team after his team has lost again. On Tuesday, the U.S. Secretary of Education billed the release of the test scores on worldwide education called the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exams as a global event, even though the real news is that there is no news at all. The results revealed that U.S.

Schools improve when leaders stop rationalizing mediocrity (December 05, 2013)

If the superintendents of failing school districts were as adept at fixing schools as they are at making excuses for their poor performance, America would have the best education system in the world.

Instead, the just-released tests administered by the Program for International Student Assessment show that other countries are making faster progress than the United States. Our teenagers are now ranked 26th in math, 21st in science and 17th in reading. Shanghai, Singapore, South Korea, and Hong Kong are leading the pack.

Spinning America's Report Card (November 07, 2013)

From 2009-2013, fourth-graders, who have had the full "benefit" of the Obama administration's nonenforcement of No Child Left Behind, improved by two points in math and just one point in reading. During those four years, eighth-graders moved up one point in math and three points in reading. Overall, those gains average out to less than a half point per year. Compare that with the previous decade (2000-09), during which average annual gains in the two subjects at both grade levels were twice as large as those registered in the last four years.

Some Perspective on Common Core (October 28, 2013)

The presumption behind having national standards is that having a clearer and more consistent statement of learning objectives across states would tend to lessen the problem of heterogeneous skills that students bring to the labor market. Again, however, the fundamental problem is lack of minimal skills and not the heterogeneity of skills per se.

A Distraction from Real Education Reform (October 28, 2013)

Policymakers and reform advocates alike have rallied around introducing a set of national content standards, suggesting that this will jump-start the stagnating achievement of U.S. students. As history clearly indicates, simply calling for students to know more is not the same as ensuring they will learn more. While I support better learning standards, we cannot be distracted from more fundamental reform of our schools.

Playing in the Right League (October 28, 2013)

The headline in the New York Times was "Eighth-graders in 36 states performed above the mathematics and science averages." That sounds pretty good until one goes into the details and finds out what league is being assessed. Only a third of the OECD countries -- the club of most developed nations of the world -- participated in TIMSS. TIMSS, for example, did not include Singapore, Switzerland, Netherlands, Germany, or Poland. Instead, the TIMSS countries were heavily weighted toward developing nations -- Armenia, Ghana, Oman, Syria.... It is not just a matter of pride or of publicity. Our economic well-being is directly dependent on the quality of our workforce.

Upgrade U.S. skills or pay the price (October 09, 2013)

New data show the disheartening level of skills of the American worker compared with those in other developed countries. Although this is the first international comparison of adult math and reading skills, this is what we have been hearing about U.S. students for decades — without strong, meaningful action to correct the situation. If economic growth followed historical patterns and if America could bring its students up to German standards, that would generate an increase in the average American worker’s income by 12% every year for the next 80 years.

Fixing our schools could fix our debt crisis, too (September 13, 2013)

As Congress debates ways of controlling a burdensome national debt that threatens to blow through 100% of GDP, one way of correcting the long-term trend projected for the rest of the 21st Century is systematically ignored.

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