Financial incentives for teachers to increase student performance is an increasingly popular education policy around the world. This paper describes a school-based randomized trial in over two-hundred New York City public schools designed to better understand the impact of teacher incentives on student achievement. I find no evidence that teacher incentives increase student performance, attendance, or graduation, nor do I find any evidence that the incentives change student or teacher behavior. If anything, teacher incentives may decrease student achievement, especially in larger schools. The paper concludes with a speculative discussion of theories that may explain these stark results.
While many jurisdictions ban teacher strikes on the assumption that they harm students, there is surprisingly little research on this question. The majority of existing studies make cross section comparisons of students who do or do not experience a strike, and report that strikes do not affect student performance. I present new estimates from a sample of strikes in the Canadian province of Ontario over the period 1998-2005. The empirical strategy controls for fixed student characteristics at the school cohort level. The results indicate that teacher strikes in grades 2 or 3 have on average a small, negative and statistically insignificant effect on grade 3 through grade 6 test score growth, although there is some heterogeneity across school boards. The effect of strikes in grades 5 and 6 on grade 3 through grade 6 score growth is negative, much larger and statistically significant. The largest impact is on math scores: 29 percent of the standard deviation of test scores across school/grade cohorts.
That's from the paper Industrial Actions in Schools: Strikes and Student Achievement by Michael Baker of the university of Toronto. Here is the link.
Fallacy of composition: whatever is true for the individual is also true for the whole. Example: if I stand at a football game, I get a better view if I'm the only one who stands up. If everyone stands up*, my view is probably no better or, quite possibly, worse.
Don Boudreaux on what ails public education in the US:
Suppose that newspapers were run by government and funded by taxpayers,
and that each American was assigned to read only the newspaper
published in his or her local area. Clearly, the resulting quality of
journalism would be atrocious.
Would anyone seriously suggest that this problem would be solved if
only there were better schools of journalism, or higher pay for
journalists, or more people who are “called” to journalism, or
newspaper readers who take more active roles in digesting and
interpreting the news? Surely not. All sensible people would
understand that these fixes would all fail as long as newspapers faced
no competition – indeed, as long as journalism is produced by the state.
I recall hearing that the US has one of the highest rates of church attendance in the world and a lot of that has to do with the fact that people are free to choose what religion they want to follow.
I find the situation at ND very interesting. Their department was split into two departments awhile back because of internal disagreements about what an economics major should constitute. One branch believed that it should be more quantitative while another branch, the heterodox branch, thought it should be more of a liberal arts major.
In my department, we have had similar discussions about the direction that a major should take. Recently, we have moved to make our major more quantitative, a decided movement away from the more liberal arts flavor our major used to have. We now require majors to take Econometrics and Math for Economics, a course in which students are introduced to some of the basic mathematical modeling methods used in economic analysis.
Part of the reason for the switch to a more quantitative major was because economics per se is a quantitative discipline. Even in our verbal models, the logic of math plays a serious role. So it's important to be exposed to the mathematical tools economists use.
Many in my department also felt that the quantitative tools taught by our faculty would be useful in a lot of different careers, and not only those who seriously want a job titled "economist" (which requires graduate study). Data and data gathering techniques have improved by leaps and bounds over the past 20-25 years and the computing power needed to crunch the data has grown exponentially. Econometric and other modeling techniques can help majors who seek careers in management, accounting, finance, and many other careers.
But mostly, a major in economics helps prepare students for all kinds of careers. Economics is the study of rational and self-interested people. These are the types of people we all are and that we all deal with every minute of every day. If you leave one career to start another, you will still encounter rational, self-interested people. Economic skills travel well from one career to the next.
My department used to be part of the College of Business. However, approximately 10-12 years ago, the department was removed from the COB because of the department's unwillingness to support COB's accreditation efforts. For one, accreditation would require the COB to gut itself. It would have to decrease the number of departments housed within the COB and it would have to dissolve the MBA program. Because the MBA program fed many students to the economics grad program, it also meant dissolving our graduate program.
In addition, it would require faculty to undertake research efforts. At that time, my department was a teaching department and active research had not been supported for years. So it had been a long time since the faculty had done much research. Asking them to break open their research toolbox and sharpen their research skills after so many years*, especially at a time when many of the faculty would be retiring within the next 5 years, was asking too much.
To summarize, the faculty did not support the accreditation efforts and my department is now part of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
*We now have several new faculty members that arrived on campus after the move. My colleagues and I are active researchers and have published numerous papers in journals such as the Southern Economic Journal, Applied Economics, the Journal of Public Economics, and the National Tax Journal. One of my colleagues presents every year at the ASSA meetings. The College of Social and Behavioral Sciences supports our research in various ways, and we make full use of that support. We also are dedicated teachers, so we're no longer just a teaching department. We are a teaching *and* research department.
One of the biggest criticisms of public schools is that parents and students lack options regarding where to send their kids to school. A recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a disheartening story about a family with two teenage daughters who want to get their kids out of a failing inner-city school, but state law that seemingly gives them that choice also stands in their way. An excerpt:
Reggie and Francello McCoy, like a lot of parents, have been trying to get their children out of failing schools.
Their district, Riverview Gardens, has been in academic and financial
shambles. The former superintendent faces felony charges for stealing
and tax evasion.
In June, the McCoys thought they had found a way out when the state
declared Riverview Gardens unaccredited. But they soon found doors
closing instead of opening.
...Under Missouri law, students in unaccredited school districts such as
Riverview Gardens and St. Louis can transfer to a better district in an
adjoining county. And the districts they leave have to pay tuition at
their new school.
The problem: Other districts don't have to admit them.
A new national survey shows that state spending on higher education is
continuing to rise in most of the country and is growing faster than
kudzu in much of the South.
Total state general-fund appropriations for higher education
are up by 7 percent, to $72.18-billion, in the 2006-7 fiscal year,
according to an annual survey
conducted by the Center for the Study of Education Policy, at Illinois
State University. Detailed statistics from the survey, including
state-by-state and institution-by-institution breakdowns, are available
A picture from the article:
SOURCE: Center For The Study of Education Policy, Illinois State U.
I poked around the Grapevine website and could not find any information whether the dollar figureson which the conclusions are based are nominal or real values. From what I read, I assume they are not inflation-adjusted figures.
In any case, these figures reflect appropriations but not expenditures, but for those at "use it or lose it" institutions (places where your appropriations do not carry over year-to-year - and where they might decrease in subsequent years if they are not spent), these appropriations are largely spent. I'd also like to know how expense categories changed in the past year (i.e. assuming the money was spent, what was it spent on?).
Higher education’s response to its acquiring the role of gatekeeper of
much of the job market is a story in itself. It has behaved in a way
that is suggestive of massive monopolistic imperfections in the market
for its product. Confronted with a significant increase in demand for
its services (due at least in part to Griggs),
it has engaged in overt price discrimination against students and their
parents. Assisted by certain government rules, they carefully estimate
the maximum amount a student’s family can pay in determining tuition
charges. Discounts in the form of scholarships and work-study jobs are
given to those who are thought unable to pay the full amount. By this
method, colleges and universities are attempting to capture as much as
they can of what economists call the consumer surplus that occurs in
It's third degree price discrimination because a price-sensitive group (due to the limited average family income of those in the group) gets the discount. Much the same is said about merit scholarships where members of the group have more options available to them, also making them relatively price-sensitive.
"That's one thing that happens to any high-achieving school," said
Robin Lake, the director of the National Charter School Research
Project. "They start attracting more middle-class families."
...One charter school in San Francisco, for instance, was roundly
criticized after well-to-do students showed up. People thought the
school was "creaming" — stealing middle-class children and their high
test scores from area schools.
But that wasn't the case, Lake said.
..."The public schools just weren't challenging him enough," said Kendra
Schneider, a certified nurse's assistant who sent her son Kurt
Hartzell, 9, to the new Confluence this year. Kurt went to both private
and public schools before, but he got into trouble.
"This is a more challenging curriculum," Schneider said. "It gives him something to do other than misbehave."
It seems as if the critics forget the voluntary nature of parents switching schools: it's a two-way street. There seems to be an implicit assumption made by the critics that charters couldn't have been doing a better job educating their students. But parents want their kids to be educated and, given viable options, they'll move their kids.
Price inflation masks the true value of goods. Suppose a bottle of Coke costs $1 and a bag of chips costs $2. The chips, therefore, cost 2 cokes. If the money prices of Coke and chips goes to $2 and $4 respectively, the cost of chips is still 2 Cokes. The money inflation did nothing to the underlying value of either good in terms of the other good. The same thing happens with grades:
Today, approximately 41 percent of America’s student population has a
grade point average over 3.5. Yale has approximately 21,000 applicants
annually and only 1,300 available slots. Ninety-seven percent of
Stanford's new freshman class were ranked in the top 20 percent of
their high schools, and 45 percent ranked in the top 1 percent or 2
percent. Harvard has an abundance of candidates with strong
credentials, but it now accepts an estimated all-time-low 9 percent of
Grade inflation masks the true quality of a student. When everyone is made to look special, then the measuring stick quits working as such. Dash was right and it surprises me not that fewer high-credential students are getting into top colleges.
U.S. Education Department senior researcher Clifford Adelman, the
government's leading authority on the links between high school
programs and college completion, said some high school transcripts
apply the label "pre-calculus" to any math course before calculus. Some
students who had taken "pre-calculus," according to the transcripts he
inspected, had skills so rudimentary that they were forced to take
basic algebra in their first year of college.
...Most high school honors and advanced courses don't have independent
benchmarks like the AP tests, so inflated course labels are more
difficult to detect. Michael Goldstein, founder of the MATCH Charter
Public School in Boston, described the sort of dialogue that often
produces courses that don't keep their promises in other schools:
principal tells the teacher, 'You're teaching algebra 2.' The teacher
responds, 'But our tests show these kids haven't mastered one-fourth
plus one-half, let alone algebra 1.' The principal responds, 'Well, we
need to offer them algebra 2 because it helps on their college
The cynic in me wants to sarcastically say "I thought this sort of dishwatery claptrap was supposed to come from the for-profit educational sector." But I won't.