Education Reform: If You Want Equal Outcomes, Let’s Start With Equal Inputs

What I find troubling about the various education ‘reform’ initiatives–Race to the Top, No Child Left Behind, Put Your Right Foot In, Put Your Right Foot Out, Do the Hokey Pokey and Shake It All About–is that the ‘metrics’ they use to determine performance measure outputs, such as test scores, and are absolutely silent on resources provided to students–that is, funding.

Bruce Baker looks at spending data for New York schools outside of the New York City school system, and finds some straightforward patterns when comparing “priority” districts (those with poor testing performance) to those in “good standing.” First, the size of the tax base for the different classes of schools:


And here is how much, by New York’s own standards, each type of district is underfunded:


Not surprisingly, income is correlated with school performance:


So the districts and schools with the greatest needs–special education, poverty, English-as-Second-Language–are those that receive the least resources. If anything, these schools should be receiving more resources because they have more problems, such as hunger, medical attention (school nurses), and emotional problems (guidance counselors). To the extent they perform worse, they need more teacher contact time–which costs money. Instead, these schools, by the state’s own admission, have the least money to spend.

If we were serious about reforming education, we would increase funding so every school receives adequate funding. We would not provide incentives for teachers to want to leave the neediest students so they can have enough resources to do their jobs properly. Providing every student an equal opportunity (even if only in nominal dollar terms) would be real reform.

Of course, bashing teachers unions–which is the same as bashing teachers–does have the advantage of being much cheaper. Not sure it does much for the students though.

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5 Responses to Education Reform: If You Want Equal Outcomes, Let’s Start With Equal Inputs

  1. Mike says:

    There is a stealth group in Minnesota called “Better Ed” which is proposing solutions for the educational slide here. One of their proposals is to go back to requiring the use of cursive in writing essays.

    Cursive, the alphabet form that no one encounters in any medium other than personal letters any longer, will improve education.

  2. johnkrehbiel says:

    The same evidence might be taken to mean that poverty is the cause of poor student performance. (The test would be to see how poor kids do in well funded schools)

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