Economic analysis of education and schooling has progressed considerably over the past few decades, and this essay attempts to put a few key issues into perspective. I look at the field from the particular vantage point of an economist with an interest in how school resources are used and how student performance can be improved. This perspective at least as applied-may be a bit narrow, although I think it is central to much of the policy discussion in education.
The production of school reform reports is a big business in the United States. The current trend of reform was started by A Nation at Risk, the 1983 official government report that detailed the decline of America’s schools. Since then, new reports have been institution not to have its own report and position on reform. Yet, it is startling how little any of the reform reports, and the reform movement itself, draw upon economic principles in formulating new plans.
Part of the glue holding together the membership of the Association of Public Policy Analysis and Management is a concern about the character and path of public policies. Embedded in this is the professional opinion that analysis will improve the outcomes of policy deliberations. This issue-the relationship between policy analysis and policy development-has been the subject of a long-standing debate that has recently been revived.