Last year, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, supplanting No Child Left Behind and placing responsibility for public school improvement squarely upon each of the 50 states. With the federal government’s role in school accountability sharply diminished, it now falls to state and local governments to take decisive action. Large economic benefits should accrue to states that take advantage of this new flexibility.
Each state stands to receive an extraordinary rate of return on successful efforts to improve school quality. We document the long-term economic impact of a state’s student-achievement levels, which in turn permits us to calculate the economic returns from school improvement. Simply put, future economic growth is directly related to the cognitive skills of today's students.
Any state political leader of vision would do well to make school quality a high priority.