Saturday, January 29, 2011

Regress to Focus on Inputs Rather than Outcomes

Flaws in a Less Rigorous Education 'Dashboard'
Education Week Commentary by Ze'ev Wurman & Williamson M. Evers

January 28, 2011

On Monday [Jan. 24], U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan released an online “Education Dashboard” that is supposed to show how American schools and students are performing and to encourage public debate and discussion.

Where the Bush-era indicators defined college readiness by college-admissions-test scores of high schoolers, Secretary Duncan has replaced them with the rather meaningless measure of “public school graduates who took at least one Advanced Placement test”—took, but did not necessarily pass.

While many distracting inputs have been added, an important one has been dropped. That measure of input, which was included in the Bush-era indicators, is broadly meaningful to the public: average national K-12 spending per student. Such a figure is a vital component of any effort to measure productivity. Per-pupil spending has continued to rise even during the recession. Yet this figure is now absent from the Obama administration’s dashboard and thus hidden from the public.

In summary, we are disappointed that Secretary Duncan and the Obama administration have chosen, in effect, to lower achievement expectations and regress to a focus on inputs rather than on outcomes.

Ze'ev Wurman is a manager in a Silicon Valley technology startup company and was a senior adviser to the U.S. Department of Education during President George W. Bush’s administration. Williamson M. Evers is a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a member of the institution’s Koret Task Force on K-12 Education. He was the assistant U.S. secretary of education for planning, evaluation, and policy development during the same administration.


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