Difference-Makers in Education
By Arnold Kling
Sometimes I hear from union-affiliated folks that it’s unfair to attribute differences in student learning to differences in teacher skill, because everyone knows that socioeconomic and home environment factors drive a lot of this. Other times I see the American Federation of Teachers building a messaging program around the idea that its members are Making A Difference Every Day.
Thanks to Alex Tabarrok for the pointer.
On the topic of educators making a difference, the local paper compares the state of our schools before and after the tenure of our rock-star superintendent, Jerry Weast.
Per Pupil Spending (just Operating Budget Divided By Enrollment):
Fiscal 2000: $8,460 [note: translates to $11, 475 in 2011 dollars]
Fiscal 2011: $14,580
Graduation Rate (using Maryland Leaver Rate):
Related, there is the story More Montgomery schools fall short of state standards.
So, basically, Weast raised per-pupil spending by 25 percent more than inflation, and got pretty much no results to show for it.
It seems to me that it is relatively easy to get people to come around to the view that more health care spending does not necessarily improve health outcomes. But it is really, really hard to get people to come around to the view that more education spending does not necessarily improve education outcomes.
And I don’t believe people want to think through their beliefs. I had a Matt Yglesias moment when I asked an incumbent of the school board what he thought accounted for the huge disparity in college attendance between the high schools in Potomac and those in my area. He gave me a litany of factors having nothing to do with schools. Yet he was all about increasing school spending.
Robin Hanson famously says that spending on medical services is all about “showing that you care.” I believe that the same holds for spending on education. It’s about showing good intent, not about obtaining results.