Wot Works

A new paper by Lisa Barrow and Cecilia Rouse is a good introduction to how economists view education policy, and the paucity of hard evidence on most possible policies. While I don’t agree with all their conclusions (FWIW, here’s my take on the US class size debate), the paper is well worth a read for policymakers working on education. Who knows, it might even prompt us to learn something about what works in Australia, rather than just making schools policies based on gut instincts and interest groups.

Causality, Causality, Causality: The View of Education Inputs and Outputs from Economics
Educators and policy makers are increasingly intent on using scientifically-based evidence when making decisions about education policy. Thus, education research today must necessarily be focused on identifying the causal relationships between education inputs and student outcomes. In this paper we discuss methodologies for estimating the causal effect of resources on education outcomes; we also review what we believe to be the best evidence from economics on a few important inputs: spending, class size, teacher quality, the length of the school year, and technology. We conclude that while the number of papers using credible identification strategies is thin, the body of credible research on causal relationships is growing, and we have started to gather evidence that some school inputs matter while others do not.

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2 Responses to Wot Works

  1. Thanks Andrew – I saw this paper and was hoping you might post about it.

    Readers may also find these two new NBER papers of interest:

    Improving the Performance of the Education Sector: The Valuable, Challenging, and Limited Role of Random Assignment Evaluations, NBER Working Paper No. 11846,
    by Richard J. Murnane and Richard R. Nelson.

    How Changes in Entry Requirements Alter the Teacher Workforce and Affect Student Achievement, NBER Working Paper No. 11844, by Donald Boyd, Pamela Grossman, Hamilton Lankford, Susanna Loeb and James Wyckoff.

  2. Andrew Leigh says:

    Thanks NE. I refrained from posting on these because I think Murnane & Nelson are too harsh on randomised assignment (we can debate whether there are too many randomised trials in the US – but there are definitely not too many in Australia!). I think Boyd et al is interesting, but I preferred Rockoff’s take on the same question (not yet online, I don’t think – but they presented it at NBER Summer Institute this year).

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