Friday, February 18, 2011

An Efficient System

The Center for American Progress recently finished a yearlong effort to study the efficiency of the nation’s public education system.

Efficiency is a term used to describe a system that is productive without waste. Just as a highly efficient furnace delivers adequate heat safely with a minimum of loss and at low cost, an efficient school system is one that meets the goals of the state without a lot of wasted effort. In the business world, the notion of productivity describes the benefit received in exchange for effort or money expended.

The center claims to present the first-ever evaluation of the productivity of almost every major school district in the country. The project comes with a big disclaimer...

We ...ask that you interpret individual district evaluations with caution. The connection between spending and educational achievement is a complex one, and our data does not capture everything that goes into creating an effective school system. We're also aware that some of the data reported by states and districts have reliability issues. Nevertheless, we believe that our calculations are the best available given existing research methods.

...but attempts to measure the academic achievement a school district produces relative to its educational spending, while controlling for factors outside a district’s control, such as cost of living and students in poverty.

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