At the same time, the translation of what is known about teacher quality into effective policy is far from being institutionalized. The simplest summary of research into teacher quality is that some teachers are dramatically more effective than others but that common measures of quality are largely uncorrelated with true quality. Thus, for example, we continue to face problems of insufficient numbers of high quality teachers, or shortages of math and science teachers, and of “out of field” teachers.
Access to education is one of the highest priorities on the development agenda. High-profile international commitment to progress—such as the second Millennium Development Goal of achieving universal primary education—has helped galvanize policy-makers into action. Significant results have already been achieved in school enrollment. Yet care must be taken that the need for simple, measurable goals does not lead to ignoring the fact that it ultimately is the degree to which schooling fosters cognitive skills and facilitates the acquisition
Lawsuits aimed at compelling legislatures to increase school funding have been filed in some 42 states. Courts have found for the plaintiffs in more than half of the cases on the grounds that schools are not “adequately” funded (see Figure 1). These decisions have, in effect, changed the way education appropriations are made, moving decision making from legislatures to the courts.
Eric Hanushek and Steven Rivkin examine how salary and working conditions affect the quality of instruction in the classroom. The wages of teachers relative to those of other college graduates have fallen steadily since 1940. Today, average wages differ little, however, between urban and suburban districts. In some metropolitan areas urban districts pay more, while in others, suburban districts pay more.
Because they are products of circumstance, ideas often become dated. As circumstances change, many ideas lose currency and relevance. Others, however, pick up momentum with time. School choice is among the latter. Over a long period of time, various philosophers, writers, and policymakers have discussed how schools should be organized and financed, but perhaps no idea about schooling is as directly linked to a single individual as school choice is to Milton Friedman.
Perhaps the most important change in policy discussions about school finance was the introduction of court decision making into the determination of funding schemes. Following the California court case of Serrano v. Priest, begun in the late 1960s, most states had legal actions designed to change the method of funding local schools. This book provides relevant data for the consideration of adequacy court cases. The design is to bring together a series of important “data points” that highlight issues in assessing the adequacy of school finance.
The recent movement to hold schools accountable for student performance has highlighted a simple fact: Many students are not achieving at desired levels.This simple fact has led people with widely varying reform perspectives to enter into the fray with plans and solutions. And a natural follow-on question is invariably “what will it cost?” To answer this important question, a series of very misleading methods for estimating the costs of an improved education have evolved, but the problems with these methods are generally unrecognized (or ignored) in the public and judicial debate.
It is becoming broadly recognized that quality teachers are the key ingredient to a successful school. Yet standard policies do not ensure that quality teachers are recruited and retained in the profession. Finding solutions to this problem is particularly important in Florida, where huge numbers of new teachers must be hired over the next few years.
All governments of the world assume a substantial role in providing education for their citizens. A variety of motivations lead societies to provide such strong support for schooling – some of which come from pure economics and others of which come from ideas of improved political participation, of social justice, and of general development of society. No matter what the motivation, the fundamental question remains of ‘how much should society invest?’ Public investment in education comes at the expense of other public and private uses of the funds.
Most people who read the headlines last February were stunned to learn that New York City schools were being shortchanged by $5.6 billion per year, or more than $5,000 per student. The 43 percent court-ordered budget increase, from around $13 billion in operating expenditures to something approaching $19 billion (not including some $9 billion over five years for building improvements), is the largest school finance “adequacy” judgment ever awarded. Of course, most people do not have a good grasp on either the economics or the performance of New York City schools.
It is difficult these days to ignore the message that education matters. Governments everywhere in the world have assumed a substantial role in educating their citizens, and "providing education for all" is a central pillar of the Millennium Development Goals. A variety of motivations lead societies to provide strong support for schooling. Some are purely economic, while others are driven by ideas of using education to improve political participation, social justice and, more generally, develop society.
The argument for federal involvement in accountability is clear-and falls directly in line with traditional places for centralized governmental policies. School quality is undeniably important for the nation with future economic success depending directly on the quality of our schools. Not only individual incomes but also the future growth of GDP are related directly to the knowledge and skills of the overall population. Moreover, the skills observed to count in the marketplace are the ones forming the basis for school accountability.
Experienced teachers are, on average,more effective at raising student performance than those in their early years of teaching. This gives rise to the concern that too many teachers leave the profession after less than a full career and that too many leave troubled inner-city schools for suburban ones. Until now, the roots of these problems have not been well understood.
Accountability has been a central feature of educational policy in a number of states since the 1990s. In part because of the perceived success of accountability in the states where it was initially tried, federal law introduced mandatory reporting and accountability through the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Yet not everybody is happy with school accountability. Its opponents continue to aggressively search for evidence that testing and accountability do not work—or, better, that they are actually harmful.
The report authored by Arizona State University researchers Audrey Amrein and David Berliner purported to examine student-performance trends on national exams in states where legislators have attached "high stakes" to test scores. The controversial nature of testing has led to the hurried release and dissemination of research that lacks scientific rigor, of which the Amrein and Berliner study is one of the more egregious examples.
Much of the research on the economic impact of education has properly concentrated on the role of school attainment—that is, the quantity of schooling.This focus is natural.The revolution in the United States during the 20th century was the universal provision of a basic education. Moreover, years of schooling are easily measured, and data on years attained, both over time and across individuals, are readily available. Yet today’s policy concerns revolve around issues of quality much more than of quantity.
The early 1990s saw the height of the east Asian miracle. The economies of Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, and other countries of the region were expanding at rates that dwarfed those of the United States and the mostly European nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The so-called “Asian tigers” were projected to surpass the U.S.economy in the not-sodistant future. In the national soul-searching that ensued, new attention was focused on the U.S.education system.
The ideas ventured by A Nation at Risk, though prescient in many respects, have distorted the nation’s understanding of the relationship between education and the economy for two decades now. Written during a recession, A Nation at Risk implied that the general state of the economy could be directly traced to the current performance of a nation’s education system. The economic trends of the eighties and early nineties reinforced this interpretation.
School reform is a topic on many people’s minds today, and the air is full of advice and recommendations. Unlike many policy areas, the vast majority of people have strongly held opinions, mostly arising from their own personal experiences in school. As a result, much of policy making involves walking a line between research findings and popular views. Unfortunately, these popular views frequently are not the best guide for decision making. This discussion begins with some evidence about the importance of teacher quality and moves to ideas about how the quality of teachers can be improved.
Much is uncertain about the total effects of a broad voucher program on education. The United States has relatively limited experience with choice in general and vouchers in particular, and that experience has occurred in rather narrowly prescribed experiments. It is therefore difficult to project the results of a broader voucher program by simply expanding on past experience with such a program. On the other hand, considerable experience relates to various aspects of schools that have been highlighted as potentially important.