Sometimes I just want to get nerdy. I don’t mean kind of nerdy, like when we throw around phrases like “statistical significance” and call it a day. I mean really, truly nerdy. The kind of nerdy that involves using words like “exogeneity,” which is so obscure a term that Microsoft Word tells me it isn’t a word at all. In response, I proudly push my glasses up my nose and declare that not only is exogeneity a word, it is a word that matters.
What in the world am I talking about? The controversial new Education Next school funding study by C. Kirabo Jackson, Rucker C. Johnson, and Claudia Persico, of course! If you are one of those cool kids who doesn’t spend every morning perusing the latest studies on education, the quick and dirty on the study is this: It upends a great deal of research suggesting that simply increasing public school funding does little to increase academic achievement. Instead, it finds that if one changes the design of the research, large impacts are revealed. The proposed solution? You guessed it: More money.
From the study itself (emphasis added):
Previous national studies have examined the relationship between school resources and student outcomes and found little association for students born after 1950. Those studies, however, suffer from major design limitations. We address those limitations and demonstrate that, in fact, when examined in the right way, it becomes clear that increased school spending is linked to improved outcomes for students, and for low-income students in particular. Investigating the causal effect of school spending increases generated by the passage of SFRs, we conclude that increasing per-pupil spending yields large improvements in educational attainment, wages, and family income, and reductions in the annual incidence of adult poverty for children from low-income families. For children from nonpoor families, we find smaller effects of increased school spending on subsequent educational attainment and family income in adulthood.
This begs an obvious question: What exactly is the “right way” to examine the school funding issue? Continue Reading »