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Making Schools Work: Improving Performance and Controlling Costs

Eric A. Hanushek
Published Date: 
Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution
200 pages

written in conjunction with Charles S. Benson, Richard B. Freeman, Dean T. Jamison, Henry M. Levin, Rebecca A. Maynard, Richard J. Murnane, Steven G. Rivkin, Richard H. Sabot, Lewis C. Solmon, Anita A. Summers, Finis Welch, and Barbara L. Wolfe

America's public schools should be the best in the world. Per-student expenditures have historically exceeded those of every other country, yet students coming out of America's elementary and secondary schools fare poorly in head-to-head competition with students from other parts of the world. Despite ever-rising school budgets, student performance has stagnated. Parents, educators, and policymakers generally agree that something must be done to improve schools, but the consensus ends there. The myriad of reform documents and policy discussions that have appeared over the past decade have not helped to pinpoint exactly what should be done. Many believe the easiest solution is to increase spending, as if money alone will cure the ails of American education. Making Schools Work shows that improvement of schools today depends more on better use of resources than on provision of added funds.This book is the culmination of extensive discussion among a panel of economists led by Eric A. Hanushek. The authors conclude that although the case for investment in education is in large measure an economic one--schooling improves productivity and earnings of individuals and promotes stronger economic growth--economic considerations have been entirely absent from the development of educational policies.The book outlines a unique plan to improve school performance without increasing expenditures. The authors call for more efficient use of resources, greater performance incentives, and continuous learning and adaptation. Rather than concentrating on spending more, schools must learn to consider trade-offs among programs and operations and must evaluate performance and eliminate programs that are not working. America's future depends on the quality of its schools. This book shows how educators, policymakers, parents, and students can work together to improve the system.

Panel on the Economics of Educational Reform (PEER)
  • Eric A. Hanushek: Professor of Economics and Public Policy;Director, W. Allen Wallis Institute of Political Economy, University of Rochester.
  • Charles S. Benson: Professor of Education; Director, National Center for Research in Vocational Education, University of California, Berkeley. [deceased]
  • Richard B. Freeman: Professor of Economics, Harvard University.
  • Dean T. Jamison: Professor of Education and of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles; Population, Health, and Nutrition Advisor, The World Bank.
  • Henry M. Levin: David Jack Professor of Higher Education and Economics; Director, Accelerated Schools Project, Stanford University.
  • Rebecca A. Maynard: Trustee Professor of Education and Social Policy, University of Pennsylvania.
  • Richard J. Murnane: Professor of Education, Harvard University.
  • Steven G. Rivkin: Assistant Professor of Economics, Amherst College.
  • Richard H. Sabot: John J. Gibson Professor of Economics, Williams College; Senior Research Fellow, The World Bank.
  • Lewis C. Solmon: President, Milken Institute for Job and Capital Formation.
  • Anita A. Summers: Professor of Public Policy and Management, Wharton School; Professor of Education, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania.
  • Finis Welch: Professor of Economics, Texas A&M University; Chair, Unicon Research Corporation.
  • Barbara L. Wolfe: Professor of Economics, Preventive Medicine, and Public Affairs, University of Wisconsin, Madison.