This week on “The Learning Curve,” co-hosts Cara Candal and Gerard Robinson talk with Dr. Eric Hanushek, the Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. Dr. Hanushek shares how he first became interested in the economics of education, his plans for the nearly $4 million in funding from the prestigious Yidan Prize, which he received in 2021, and where he sees the greatest need for additional research in education. He shares findings from a recent Hoover Education Summit panel, focusing on educational performance among high- and low-performing countries, and how the U.S. compares on global measures. They explore why U.S. reading and math results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have remained flat, despite $800 billion spent annually, and the impact of persistent achievement gaps on individual social mobility and global competitiveness. They discuss his February study on some of the ways parents influence the “intergenerational transmission of cognitive skills,” and how this impacts the lifetime outcomes of children and K-12 education policymaking.
Stories of the Week: In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee signed into law a sweeping change designed to standardize and streamline the funding formula for the state’s K-12 education system. National polling from NPR and Ipsos finds high rates of parent satisfaction with their children’s schooling, despite contentious K-12 culture wars.
The next episode will air on Weds., May 11th, with Cass Sunstein, the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School, and the author of The New York Times best-selling book, The World According to Star Wars.
Dr. Eric Hanushek is the Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. He is a recognized leader in the economic analysis of education issues, and his research has had broad influence on education policy in both developed and developing countries. In 2021, Dr. Hanushek received the Yidan Prize for Education Research and he is the author of numerous widely-cited studies on the effects of class size reduction, school accountability, teacher effectiveness, and other topics. His recent book, The Knowledge Capital of Nations: Education and the Economics of Growth summarizes his research establishing the close links between countries’ long-term rates of economic growth and the skill levels of their populations. Ongoing research focuses on international variations in student performance and considers what differences in schooling systems lead to country-differences in the skills of people. He has authored or edited twenty-four books along with over 250 articles. He is a Distinguished Graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and completed his Ph.D. in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Tweet of the Week:
But money won’t start flowing to Catholic and evangelical schools without changes to other state laws. https://t.co/hh5XdZo9HG
— Bangor Daily News (@bangordailynews) May 2, 2022
Tennessee Governor Signs New K-12 Funding Formula Into Law
The education culture war is raging. But for most parents, it’s background noise
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Read a Transcript of This Episode
Please excuse typos.
[00:00:00] GR: Listeners. This is Gerard Robinson from beautiful Charlottesville, Virginia. Welcome to another soon to be wonderful episode of The Learning Curve, you know, that we bring together great guests every week to talk about education, social policy history, the classics, all kinds of subjects. And of course, none of this would be [00:01:00] possible or even fun without my Cara.
[00:01:05] Cara: I’m here and I’m so much fun all the time. Ask my kids every day,
[00:01:12] every single
[00:01:12] Cara: day. No I’m doing well. I know we’ve got a lot of great stories this week and in a great guest and the sun is shining, which it rarely does at this time of year in Boston. So all
[00:01:24] GR: good. All is good. Well, kick us off with.
[00:01:29] Cara: Oh, well, actually my story in my mind falls in the all is good category direct.
[00:01:35] I want to actually, before I get my story, I want to ask you a question just for our listeners direct. Do you think if you and I were chatting, I don’t know, dinner table politics, would we agree on everything?
[00:01:49] GR: No, no,
[00:01:51] just shocking.
[00:01:53] Cara: We did, we had some things, right. But like, I have a difference of opinion.
[00:01:57] Maybe I lean a little bit, one way and you leaned a [00:02:00] little bit the other, but we’re still friends. Yeah, exactly. We still get along. don’t fight. We don’t hate each other. Don’t try and pass me laws to keep me out of your house, stuff like that. Well, okay. So, there’s this NPR Ipsos poll out so the title of the article, it was actually from the NPR website is, parents aren’t really tuned in to the culture wars.
[00:02:26] Headline was just music to my ears, my friend, because let me tell you something. We’ve talked about it on this podcast. We have been thinking about what it means that our country it’s. We seem to be in this place where people can’t talk to each other. If you listen, you read social media. If you listen to the news, it feels like people just can’t figure out how to get along.
[00:02:50] I’ve always felt that in my personal relationships, I happened to be, I know that this goes against the grain, but I happen to be a person [00:03:00] who doesn’t always vote the same way her close friends do. It’s amazing. And I still go out with them and have a beer or a glass of juice they’ll get along in sometimes here’s the most shocking thing.
[00:03:17] Sometimes I learn things and sometimes I even changed my opinion. I learned things from my friends. So I loved hearing that to most parents, these culture wars that we’ve been talking about and thinking about in education are according to this poll, basically background noise. And what I mean by that is parents really don’t care because parents care about what’s going on in their own school.
[00:03:41] Parents care about their kids. And yes, there is some number of points. Who are dissatisfied with some of the things going on in their kid’s school, but it’s certainly not most parents as some would have us to believe. So I want to just run through this really, really quick. And there are [00:04:00] some things that were really surprising to me.
[00:04:02] The first one, this one was not surprising is because this is like a traditional American pastime saying I think there are problems with the education system in this country, but nothing’s wrong in my backyard. My school is okay. Decade after decade. The interesting thing about this phenomenon is I think it doesn’t actually capture some of the parents that no that their schools aren’t.
[00:04:21] Okay. And we can talk about some of the things that are going on here in Boston with a school just recently actually closed because there was a investigation that revealed long-term sexual abuse among other things going on in the school. That’s another. but that, I think what this is reflective of is that when parents answer.
[00:04:40] They’re likely thinking about their school in terms of the people they interface with, such as their teachers and parents generally. might not love every teacher, but they have a lot of empathy for teachers because parents are parents and they know what their kids are like. So let’s just leave that there.
[00:04:54] But the other thing that I found really interesting is that most parents in this poll [00:05:00] say that they actually feel well-informed about the curriculum at their children’s school. And so I think part of what we’ve been hearing from both the right and the left is. parents have no idea what’s going on in the classroom.
[00:05:11] You don’t know what’s being taught in your schools. Well, that might be true to some extent, and you don’t know it. Every utterance teachers say, but this poll shows that most parents think that they have a pretty good grasp on, the basic things that are being taught in their kids’ school.
[00:05:25] And that’s probably because, schools and teachers talk to them for the most part, they could probably do more of that, but also they talk to their children. so I just thought this article. Was really interesting and make big take here. Oh, actually, let me tell you the third thing. There was a striking lack of partisanship in this poll, according to NPR.
[00:05:47] And so what they said was like, there, wasn’t a way in which you could see answers reliably break down among people who identify as red or blue, the only outliers where. Did not identify themselves as [00:06:00] Democrat or Republican, rather, they identified themselves as cultural conservatives. And so I thought that that was really interesting because I think that, you pushed back on me here, Gerard, but I think that a lot of the culture wars are certainly being led by cultural conservatives.
[00:06:16] And the question is. Are they getting disproportionate airtime maybe. Yes. Maybe no, you might tell me no, I don’t know. but my, big take on this is this I’m personally heartened to hear that to most parents, this is background noise. I wish that to most policymakers it would, for the most part, be background noise for this reason in this country.
[00:06:38] If we look at Nathan’s. Most kids still can’t read on grade level in this country. If we look at NAPE results, most kids still can’t be math at grade. Yeah, actually that we can fight all we want about what should be taught in history class. But, I would be surprised if most Americans can even name more than like three presidents including the [00:07:00] sitting.
[00:07:00] Right. I think that we need to be happy. Conversations about teaching and learning. And I think that the other thing we need to do, and nobody will be surprised by this, even if you are surprised by my politics and that I can say this being a person who leans blue, if we had more choice in this country, parents might actually be able to choose schools that are more aligned with their cultural views and values.
[00:07:25] While also I hope teaching a high quality curriculum, right? So if I am a person of a certain. Why shouldn’t I be able to go to a school that is lined with that faith, that mission, that vision, that value, instead of thinking all the time that public schools need to be everything to everyone, which by the way is impossible.
[00:07:46] So, I don’t know, Gerard that’s where I’m at. I might’ve said a lot in there that feels objectionable to you.
[00:07:52] GR: I want to hear. Well, first of all, I’m glad you started off with the culture war perspective, partly because [00:08:00] the founder of the Institute for advanced studies and culture where I’ve been fellow at the university of Virginia is Dr.
[00:08:06] James Hunter. And in 1891, he published a book called culture wars. And part of the subtitle includes the word education, and he talked about families and schools and parents. And so when you think about Paul, you just mentioned, and how families are. He was talking about that, going back to 1991. So I would recommend our listeners to take a look at culture wars and his follow-up book of the death of character.
[00:08:30] you and I both like polls. it gives us insight into the lives of regular people. And so as I hear what you said, I think about five Delta. they’ve been polling families about schools going back to 1969 in a study they published in the last year. the identify some of the same things you mentioned, about families saying, you know what I think my kid’s school is doing well, but I think we need to spend, for example, more money.
[00:08:58] And when you ask families, how [00:09:00] much money do you think they’re spending per student? parents usually are way. What the actual about is when you talk about school achievement at their school, how well students are learning their intellectual acumen, they’ll say they’re doing great. And yet we’ll look at Nate and identify some are doing great.
[00:09:19] Some are not. So I think a lot of it is driven by in my house, in my school with those other people’s problems. So I like that you’ve mentioned that in terms of the red, a blue it’s heartening to hear that there’s a. maybe a few coming from a study like this, where parents are saying some of that is background noise.
[00:09:39] I’m just interested in what’s going on in my school. do think you’re right. That some of the normal. It’s coming from what I call the mouse with the loudest mic. And some of that in fact, is coming from cultural conservatives. we see that in critical race theory, which I’ve addressed as Republican mates recommendations to members of my own party, in a.[00:10:00]
[00:10:00] Uh, sometime last year. but I also think it’s the cultural progressive and a cultural liberals who are also doing the same thing on the other side. And I think the leak from the Supreme court of where the court may lean in the upcoming decision about a board sheet is just one example. So I do think there are more parents, , in the middle, both blue and right.
[00:10:24] Just aren’t the ones we’re often hearing from, even in Virginia, where there’s a cultural war right now. And I don’t know CRT, but I’ll tell about certain books that we should look at the role of parents and families. When you look at Northern Virginia and you look at, Thomas Jefferson high school, which in fact, I believe it was last week or the week before where you identified.
[00:10:43] schools in the country, Thomas Jefferson is considered the top public school. It’s a school with diversity, both economic ratio, ethnic, , not as much Hispanic and black as somewhere. But then they changed the rules to try to do what I often say is colored cold classrooms to [00:11:00] make people feel good about racial democracy on the left and the right in the middle.
[00:11:05] Some people are going to get things right or wrong. So in that that’s a great story. I don’t think there’s much that you and I disagree on this. I think, some folks on my side of the fence are getting some things right. But we often don’t give them a chance to be heard. I think there’s some things that 1770.
[00:11:22] Unites. I think there’s some things that they add that are sensible to the debate, but because some of them are not only conservatives with black conservatives, we tend to call them uncle Toms and a Tina’s.
[00:11:33] Cara: Yeah, no, no. I want to, thank you. Because one of the things I should’ve said is that.
[00:11:39] It’s not lost on me that in an NPR piece, they would talk about cultural conservatives and leave out the, really loud, extreme voices on the left that often take the headlines as well. And I think that that. Really really important. And so, yes, cheers to the purple [00:12:00] cheers. Cheers. Cheers to the middle.
[00:12:02] We should all be able to live somewhere in there at least, have a coffee together. Yeah,
[00:12:06] GR: exactly. Well, your story about. what people think about their schools is a great segue into my story. I also think it’s a feel-good story and it’s from the volunteer state, Tennessee, governor, bill Lee had an opportunity to do something that many of his colleagues, whether they’re one or two term governors with exception of Virginia, which one term governor will probably never have a chance to do in his or her time that.
[00:12:32] Just sign legislation to change the funding formula. That’s something that he actually had a chance to do. , his commissioner, penny. Was a part of the announcement. So you and I, and our listeners know that a couple of years ago, we had university of Virginia professor of education and law, Kimberly Robinson on the show to talk about school finance.
[00:12:54] and from that conversation, she talked about the importance of school litigation, seventies, eighties, nineties, and how [00:13:00] they got us to where we are today. Well, I think that’s a good backdrop to talk about. Taking place in Tennessee. So go back to 1992, where as part of an federal, a part of a lawsuit, the state decided to create a new funding formula.
[00:13:15] And in that funding formula, they were 45 components that were put in place that you had to walk through in order to determine how much money schools were going to receive on a per pupil basis. Fast-forward to two years ago, the governor and a group of stakeholders said, listen, we’ve got to do something different because a people on the left said the funding formula is antiquated and we’ve got to change it.
[00:13:43] People on the right said, guess what? Our funding formula is antiquated and we have to change it. So at least there was bipartisan support that we needed to change the system naturally. How much money students should receive per student, how much schools should receive a course was a [00:14:00] debate, but rather than simply rely on lawmakers to do it.
[00:14:03] , the governor will, and his team were part of a much larger discussion where they went throughout the state, brought together a group of people and even participated in a statewide transparency, a consortium conversation, which also has a national roots to say, what should we do? you had people like, one of our colleagues who we know Dr.
[00:14:24] Evans for our 50 candidates to see who, in fact last fall, when I was in Nashville, was talking to me about this issue. So shout out to Victor, for his work, but people said we’ve got to do something different. So after all the things, that go into politics take place, here’s what you have. You had a 26 to five vote in this.
[00:14:43] to move it forward. It was a 63 to 24 vote in the house. It wasn’t strictly on party lines. Although we know that it’s a strong red state, six Republicans that actually voted against it as did five Democrats, with the new law, they’re going to move away. [00:15:00] From the 45 components as we know it today, it was basically called the basic education program.
[00:15:06] The legislation that he signed is called the Tennessee investment in student achievement. I like the fact that he used the word in investment because when you hear investment in at least symbolically means accountability. It also means removing students and schools up from being solely a receiver of.
[00:15:24] But an active player in the investment and articulation of moving forward and a focus on student achievement. , there’s a debate about what schools are for, well, guess what student achievement is part of it. the state’s going to invest $6,860, per student. some people think that it’s too low.
[00:15:41] Some people think it’s about right, but it’s where they’re going to move So with this legislation, Tennessee is going to join at least 33 states and the district of Columbia that use a student based formula, prior to this law, Tennessee was not a part of that.
[00:15:59] [00:16:00] neither is Massachusetts. So they’re moving toward that. Number two is going to add an additional $9 billion in state and local funds to schools. So I think that’s a move in the right direction. And third is going to give lawmakers, parents, teachers, and educators, more insight into exactly how much funding is going into schools.
[00:16:21] Now, naturally, we have legitimate questions. Students of color students in low and under resource areas where students with disabilities? Well, I had a chance to take a look at data from the department of education and the identify that per pupil spending before this law for students with disabilities are range as low as 36.
[00:16:41] So as much as seven. And so even without this law, we know that certain students need money. So I think it’s a step in the right direction. Our congratulations to the commissioner, the governor and the legislature moving away from one system. it’s been in place for 30, 40 years to a new system.[00:17:00]
[00:17:00] Some of those, of course funding models won’t kick in for another year, but it’s a good feel-good story. And according to data for the national association of state budget officers, who’ve identified at least 27 states in fiscal year 21, had a higher percentage of its money going to K-12 and higher education than other categories.
[00:17:20] Second often being in Medicaid, and Tennessee not being one. This is a step in the right direction, but want to get your.
[00:17:27] Cara: say so happy for Tennessee. I think this is huge and I have to get selfish for just a second and say that my great colleague, Matthew, Joseph. spent a lot of time helping things this through and helping folks on the ground understand why student centered funding is so important and how it could work and how it’s going to really benefit the state in the long run.
[00:17:49] Like you said, it is an investment. I think that our upcoming guests, Dr. Eric Hanushek, Very very well-equipped to talk to us about why education is an [00:18:00] investment on which you can see a sizable return if you do it. Right. I think this is game changing for Tennessee. Very proud. I wish that, the Commonwealth would listen.
[00:18:08] I mean, look, the thing is, is that a lot of times states they, the distinguished, Dr. Kimberly Robinson has told us, states will think about a funding formula and then think it’s good for 25 years or 30 years, or, and not, not, use all the tools that they should to assess the extent to which it’s working and for whom it’s working, et cetera.
[00:18:28] I think this is really important. might I also add that a system of student-centered funding it’s good for everyone, and it’s also good for people. Because what it means is that technically, , we should work towards a system where, and I’m not even just talking public versus private, just within public systems alone, where kids should be able to get the money they need for their education.
[00:18:55] in whatever school they choose in a student centered funding [00:19:00] formula is the first big step in that direction. So I love this story. Look at us through our two. Rather feel good stories this week. I think we should just give ourselves, we’re just all sunshine and rainbows
[00:19:11] GR: today. Well, this is an example of the purple people with the.
[00:19:20] Legitimately. I love that. That’s wonderful.
[00:19:22] Cara: All right, you right. As I said, our next guest is going to be with us in just a moment, Dr. Eric Hanushek. He is the Paul and Jean Hanna senior fellow at the Hoover institution of Stanford university and, most folks who already sort of the go-to person on economic analysis of educational issues.
[00:19:42] we are going to be speaking with him right after this.[00:20:00]
[00:20:29] Learning curve listeners today. We’re very pleased to have with us, Dr. Eric Hanushek. He is the Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at the Hoover institution of Stanford university. He is a recognized leader in the economic analysis of education issues, and his research has had brought influence on education policy in both developed and developing.
[00:20:49] In 2021, Dr. Hanushek received the Yidan prize for education research, and he is the author of numerous, widely cited studies on the effects of class size reduction, [00:21:00] school, accountability, teacher effectiveness, and other topics, his recent book, the knowledge capital of nations education and the economics of growth summarizes his research, establishing the closest.
[00:21:12] Between countries, long-term rates of economic growth and the skill levels of their populations. Ongoing research focuses on international variations in student performance and considers what differences in schooling systems lead to country differences in the skills of people he has authored or edited 24 books along with over 250 articles.
[00:21:34] He is a distinguished graduate of the United States air force academy and completed his PhD. At the Massachusetts Institute of technology, Dr. Hanushek, welcome to The Learning Curve. Wow. thanks for being with us. I know I have read a lot of your work, and I think a lot of our listeners have too.
[00:21:53] And one of the things I appreciate so much about it is that it is something that, even those of us who are [00:22:00] not economist can comprehend. So we were talking at the outset of the show about, changes that states can make, , to recognize greater return on investment in education. And we’re just, we’re really excited to have you to talk through these issues with us.
[00:22:16] first of all, congratulations, I should say on winning Yidan prize, which is also known as education’s Nobel prize. and that was for your work on strengthening the bridge between. And education. Can you share with our listeners a little bit about first of all, how did you even come to the study of the economics of education very specifically?
[00:22:39] And what was it like to win this award?
[00:22:42] Eric Hanushek: Well, the first question. how did I come to study education issues? I probably shouldn’t admit as an economist. This was not the, end result of a rational process of planning my future. That it was more accident.[00:23:00] when I was in graduate school at MIT and I finished the coursework and was looking around for a thesis topic, the Coleman report on education came out and that was the first major study of achievement of different kids and underlying factors.
[00:23:19] It was named after its main author, James Coleman. But. the study was called equality of educational opportunity, and it was really designed to look at what differences there were largely by race, but income and regions and so forth in education. And I think is part of the civil rights act of 1964.
[00:23:42] It was designed to beat up a little bit. The states of the old Confederacy and show that things were very good in the old Confederacy. Well, Coleman did something very surprising. , this was 1965 when he was [00:24:00] working on this, Tested 600,000 kids in the country. He found out about what their families looked like from serving the kids.
[00:24:11] And these are kids in different ages and grades. He surveyed, principals and teachers in the schools, and then he did some basic statistical analysis of what explained differences in achievement, the results, Astounded people in two ways. first no study has ever had 700 pages of analysis of variance results printed by the U S government, in the life of the union, I guess.
[00:24:42] but secondly, it seemed to say that the only thing that mattered was the. Or maybe the other kids appears in the schools and schools didn’t really make much difference in terms of achievement of kids. Well, I was sitting there, , at MIT and thought this is really a [00:25:00] crazy result. How could it be that schools aren’t important when we pay so much attention to schools, we put so much money into them.
[00:25:08] If they aren’t important, we gotta be doing something different, I guess. I had a friend who was on the economics faculty at Harvard, John Kane, who snuck me into the back of a faculty seminar, all about 75 faculty members at Harvard that were needing every two weeks. Just to figure out what this report said and how to read this report.
[00:25:35] Nobody in the room quite knew how to do it. Senator pat Moynihan, who was on the faculty at Harvard at the time, and along with Fred, Mosteller a statistician ran the seven. And so I’ve sat in the back of the room and out of that ended up doing a thesis on education and agreed with part of the Coleman report, but not all of it.
[00:25:58] And once [00:26:00] I finished the thesis, well, there were new things to do, and it’s been new things to do ever since that time. And I just keep doing new and different things. , trying to understand a little bit more about how our schooling system fits into society and affects. we can come back to any parts of that that you want, but I will respond to the second thing.
[00:26:24] What’s it like to win the Ugan prize? , I was really thrilled by it because the kind of work I do has not always been well-regarded by those, in the education system. The idea of doing. Quantitative serious analysis of schoolings and how policies affect things. Things that were outside of the classroom, was a NAFA ma to many of the people in the education business.
[00:26:54] And so I take getting this prize is some sort of, , agreement that there might [00:27:00] be something there to look at policies and how they affect our own. Yeah,
[00:27:05] Cara: that’s actually really amazing to hear you say that. Gerard and I were speaking about, , the phenomenon of many Americans just thinking of schooling as the thing that is right in front of them.
[00:27:14] Therefore, they can say that. I think there’s a big problem with education in this country, but boy, I love my kids school and I think the same with, thinking about the impact of sort of the. Amazing research that you do that looks at systems that looks at how what goes on outside of the classroom impacts, influences, our systems and what it means when those systems do or do not produce the outcomes that we need.
[00:27:38] It’s just so critical for us to push forward. so I’m curious, what is it that you plan on doing. With this $3.9 million in funding. I mean, what is it that you can do that you haven’t done already? Dr. Hinshaw? Well,
[00:27:51] Eric Hanushek: , there is a cash award that goes along with this prize and they want to support research and doing other [00:28:00] things.
[00:28:00] My initial reaction is it’s still the one I have. I haven’t quite followed through on it, but my initial reaction was that, it didn’t make sense that. Put that money into what I’d been doing. I had to do something different. What I am proposing to do is to actually try to improve education in Sub-Saharan Africa and maybe Latin America.
[00:28:24] The idea comes from the work I did on economic growth. If we look at the economic growth of countries, That’s what determines the future wellbeing. So the us is richer today than it was a hundred years ago because it’s had basically the fastest rate of economic growth for the last century of any country in the world.
[00:28:48] then you look at, , Africa or you look at Latin America and you see, well, there’s not that much richer than they were a hundred years ago. They’re a little bit richer, but [00:29:00] their economic growth has not been very fast and it hasn’t led to much prosperity. you see a few cities in each of these countries that’s doing okay, but the vast majority of these populations is.
[00:29:15] my answer to what’s going on is very simple. Economic growth depends upon the skills of the population. Countries that have more skilled labor forces grow faster. They develop new products. They figured out how to, invent new things and they end up getting the rewards in terms of increased incomes in economic growth, Africa in Latin America and south Asia also don’t have.
[00:29:48] The schooling systems that support to production of skilled workforce. And without that in simplest terms, I don’t think they’ll ever grow or ever [00:30:00] grow very rapidly. And so , the idea I’ve had is to try to find ways that we could improve the schooling in these countries. And here I have something that, , you and Gerard might agree with.
[00:30:15] I think it’s really hard for so many to come in from outside until a country or a school district or a school, what to. it really requires a lot more knowledge of the capacity of the schools that exist, the demands that are there for them and somebody who can really work to bring good ideas, but in the context of the local area.
[00:30:43] So what I want to do, is very simple. I want to. Find some people that will call fellows that we can sort of improve, add to their human capital, add to their networks internationally post within [00:31:00] the geographic region, but internationally, , so that they can bring. Good ideas about education to these countries in simplest terms.
[00:31:09] I think that we know a lot more about schooling and education than is being put in place in these countries. the answer is trying to find out ways to do.
[00:31:20] Cara: that’s really heartening to hear. I have to say my mentor, Charlie Glenn, who has, I think, as you know, done a lot in international education, he would often say folks from other countries when they would say, like, we want to learn about the American education system and I would hear him.
[00:31:35] Well, don’t take our bad ideas. I love the idea of building, networks of people on the ground who know the culture who are of the culture too, to bring good education ideas. want to really quickly ask you Dr. Henry. you note that these countries, in many cases, won’t be able to grow their economies because they need to improve their schools.
[00:31:58] one of the indicators we [00:32:00] have in school performance is of course, PISA data. So international data from the OACD. And you’ve, talked about this, much throughout your career. You recently led a discussion with Andre Schleicher from OACD. Can you frame for our listeners? just even where the U S sits terms of , how do we compare to both these countries that we know the schools are really not doing what they need to do, and those countries that have excellent systems of education?
[00:32:27] where are we at?
[00:32:28] Eric Hanushek: Well, if I answer that, let me, thank you for bringing up the topic of Piza and international tests. When I was saying, country. We’ll only grow proportionate to the skills in their population. What we found is that the international math and science test that exists of which Piza run by the, OEC D is a good example, are pretty good measures of the skills that are important for a strong economy and for [00:33:00] economic growth.
[00:33:01] Many of the, developing countries of the world don’t participate in these tests. So you have to guess at whether they know anything or have any skills, but when they do participate, you see that they are dramatically different than the more developed countries in the world, in terms of their basic knowledge of math and science.
[00:33:24] should add the footnote. The Piza test is the program for international student assessment. a test given to 15 year olds, and you can think of it as taking a math problem, translating it into the local language and sort of basically marching around the world and seeing how many kids in different countries can answer a set of.
[00:33:47] Basic math problems that turns out to be a pretty good measure of future skills that are demanded by modern economies. Now, the us [00:34:00] unfortunately is slightly below the average of the OEC D or the D is the organization for economic cooperation and development. It’s really the club of rich nations and reforming.
[00:34:14] Behind, a whole series of other, both developed and developing nations in terms of our performance on these tests. This I think is actually a, Canary in the, mine that we should pay attention to this because it says that we might in the future health problems. In the past, we’ve been able to take care of this, right?
[00:34:39] We’ve been able to take care of it by important people who have better educations from abroad and we’re all immigration of skilled labor, skilled people from around the world. live next door to me in silicone valley. As long as we can keep that going. Maybe we can make up for the fact that our schools are not doing so [00:35:00] well, but I think that that’s a real problem in the long run.
[00:35:03] And so the answer to your very simple question in a long winded way is we’re not doing so well that we’re behind a large number of developed and developing countries. it’s time to stop competing with Greece and Spain and start competing with Hong Kong or Finland or, other countries that do much better then redo on these tests.
[00:35:31] GR: And I’m going to follow up on you. Reference to the Canary in the coal mine. Cause you and I have had a chance to sit in rooms, with Dr. Paul Peterson and others. When we took a look at Piza. also there’s, you know, questions about Tims and it was always amazing how well we, as Americans start, we we’re doing, and then we compare ourselves.
[00:35:53] You say to the rich countries, it wasn’t as great. But when we look domestically, you know, we spend approximately 800 [00:36:00] billion annually. And when you look at NAPE scores in reading and math, Things aren’t that great. So with all the money we spent all the legislative changes we’ve made. Why has it been so difficult for us to improve basic student achievement?
[00:36:14] And what’s the impact here at home and on our competitiveness globally?
[00:36:19] Eric Hanushek: Well, I think the impact is huge. we are, , producing. Students that grow up, not to be competitive with those from other countries. you can see it in California, which is one of the lower ranking states. the nation on things like the NAPE test, California students are not able to compete in Silicon valley because they just don’t have the skills to lead on.
[00:36:49] , what’s wrong. Oh, we have an institutional structure that does not really reward. Good performance very much.[00:37:00] there’s some rewards. we have limits on the amount of competition and, you know, there’s fights over, charter schools largely because they offer a competition to the traditional public schools.
[00:37:14] But for the most part, we are a nation of traditional public schools where they have a local monopoly. And they keep doing things the way they always did. so we know, for example, that huge amounts of research has consistently shown that just having more experience of a teacher does not lead to more effectiveness in the class.
[00:37:39] And yet we systematically pay large premium to teachers when they get more experience. So we buy something that doesn’t relate to their effectiveness in the classroom, the same I should say. And this starts to annoy people, but the same is true for graduate education. [00:38:00] There’s a lot of work that suggests that.
[00:38:03] Just having a master’s degree does not mean that somebody is going to be more or less effective than somebody, a teacher with only a bachelor’s degree. So we have this institutional structure that is locked in a system that does not pay attention to the effectiveness of schools. we’ve got to get around that,
[00:38:23] GR: your example about California, To me personally, because I grew up in California.
[00:38:30] and I think about the fact that for the first time, since the founding of California, the population has dropped and thus resulted in the loss of a congressional seat. , another economist, colleague of mine at the American enterprise Institute, Dr. Mark Perry, has got a great article, about the number of people who are leaving California for states like Texas and Tennessee.
[00:38:51] And with that is often. Economic intellectual talent and in a state that’s becoming, or at this point, majority minority who [00:39:00] can’t even get a job, high paying job in Silicon valley, you bring in international workers. I mean, that’s a recipe for disaster, so I’m glad you talked about that. Let’s put that in perspective of the achievement gap.
[00:39:14] Our listeners hear that term a lot. It’s bantered about by governors, presidents, even investing. What is the achievement gap? What’s real. and what should concern us or what even could even give us hope about closing it?
[00:39:28] Eric Hanushek: historically we might trace things back to Lyndon Baines Johnson, president of the United States who declared the war on poverty.
[00:39:39] An underlying strong element of the war on poverty was recognition that. Poorer families tended to produce children who would themselves live in poverty, and then themselves be poor in the future. And LBJ was concerned about. The fact [00:40:00] that there were large achievement gaps, both in a school attainment and the knowledge that kids got and so forth between families in poverty and those who weren’t in poverty and wanted to, , do something about that.
[00:40:16] Well work that, Paul Peterson and I, and some others have done. And. Tried to trace the history of gaps between, poor families and better off families. For the last 50 years, we can’t quite go back 50 years in this, but we’re looking at achievement differences. And what refine an consistent set of different achievement differences is that the achievement gap hasn’t moved maybe a slightly come down in 50 years, but, but not very much.
[00:40:49] And that persistence means that there’s going to be a persistence. Intergenerational poverty that these, [00:41:00] skills and knowledge are passed down from generation to generation. And so we have increasingly a generation of poor people. Some people escape that, but there are many that don’t that just go on from generation to generation.
[00:41:19] That is a huge issue that we can’t, keep going. I mean, that to me is not compatible with my conception of what the United States is. Insurance.
[00:41:31] GR: Absolutely. And I’ve seen both sides of the fence. I’m the first in my family to graduate from college. both of my Southern parents finished high school. I did not earn a college degree.
[00:41:43] I think about the men who were in my wedding, most of them , , , with single mom, not married and all of us now have graduate degrees. And then at the same time, families born in same situations, intergenerational poverty, just moving forward. So it’s unique [00:42:00] and the American mission. And I would say really the idea of the American dream.
[00:42:04] Some people don’t like that term. How about American optimism? there’s something there. And, um, I look forward to reading your research. To help us understand that because when you go back to Lyndon Johnson and the whole idea of the great society, and you’ve mentioned earlier, the Coleman report, there’s also the Moynihan report, uh, that talks about family structure, how much that played and a year after, , president Johnson announced a war on poverty.
[00:42:29] He also announced a year later a war on, criminals or on crime and the correlation between crime, low employment. I mean, it’s just so much of it. Goes to the conversation. Here’s really last question, for you, you’re doing joint research now to look the achievement gap. Is that the work you’re doing with Dr.
[00:42:48] Peterson and others? Or was that
[00:42:49] Eric Hanushek: something else? Oh, is it the work on your achievement gap is with Dr. Peterson?
[00:42:54] GR: Um, so it is that study.
[00:42:57] Eric Hanushek: Yeah. And right. So if you grew up in [00:43:00] California, you must have started reading with whole life. Exactly. That was one of the, examples of what California has done badly for the nation.
[00:43:10] It passes on bad ideas.
[00:43:15] GR: I understand that on many frauds, will it be in with, this question? And it goes to back to a care, asked you about how you got interested in economics now, knowing what you know today, there’s an. On Erica sitting in a PhD program at one of our public private schools across the country may have an interest in education.
[00:43:35] What words of wisdom would you share with Erica or Eric today about their work as an economist and how important it is in influencing how we think. About economic competitiveness, the achievement gap, or just prosperity?
[00:43:51] Eric Hanushek: Well, I, think there are many ways to look at, our education issues, but economics provides us structure [00:44:00] to sort of orderly put data together and try to understand some of the key.
[00:44:07] Policy relationships and key incentives that we can put into place. And so, , I guess we all support what we did think, or we did was good, but I think, getting some economics training, maybe not a PhD, but some economics training helps people to think about. What we could do better. We do know the other side of this is which I’ve also looked at, and that is that what’s the value of a strong education.
[00:44:41] And there’s where much of the work of economist has gone into, looking at the impact. What a timeless, because human capital on economic outcomes for individuals and for the nation. So, , I guess I should, proselytize for, more economists [00:45:00] in education, but I guess I’m not as hung up on that I am on finding ways from whatever.
[00:45:09] We can to improve our schooling system. I think it is the future of the country that we’re talking about. And if we wait till it’s become apparent that we’re in trouble, then it’s too late to correct in some sense. And so we have to begin now to try to put that to the.
[00:45:28] GR: No I’m with you. , it’s important to our country, , opponents of by version of school reform often say where education is nowhere in the constitution, but I have to remind both opponents and proponents that in 1787, at the same time members of our founding generation, where the Philadelphia initially arguing about the articles of Confederation.
[00:45:51] And then ditching that for constitution. There were another generation of founders in New York who passed the 1787 Northwest ordinance. And [00:46:00] in that document, is a following phrase, religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good. Good. And the happiness of mankind schools and the needs of education shall forever be encouraged.
[00:46:13] And so if we want to continue this great experiment schools and the means of education are part of it, the research that you’ve helped us as a nation think about matters. And I thank you so much again for joining us today.
[00:46:25] Eric Hanushek: Sure. You did it again. You did so much better than I did in expressing these views.
[00:46:31] that’s a wonderful way to end. Thank you. Thank you so much, Dr. Hanushek. [00:47:00] [00:48:00]
[00:48:36] GR: The tweet of the week comes from Bangor daily news and Maine it’s from may. Second advocates prepare for Supreme court. Turn mains religious school funding ban, and the Bangor daily news says, but money won’t start flowing to Catholic and evangelical schools without changes to other state laws. We’ve , discussed the main case here [00:49:00] on learning.
[00:49:01] And let me give a thank you for Bangor daily news for the tweet of the week.
[00:49:06] Cara: Yeah. Well, we’re all watching and we’ll, I’ll be working to get those other state laws where they need to be so about. So the kids could go to school where they need to, hello, Maine. Happy to come up there anytime. beautiful Gerard.
[00:49:21] We are going to be back together again next week. And we will be with Cass Sunstein. He is the Robert Walmsley university professor at Harvard law school and the author of the New York times bestselling book, the world, according to star wars, did you watch star wars. As
[00:49:36] a kid,
[00:49:37] GR: you’re going to laugh. I am one of the few people on the planet.
[00:49:41] Never seen one. Okay. One will be a
[00:49:45] star wars. All right. So that’s a deal breaker here. We’re okay. We can, get along. Here’s the
[00:49:54] GR: break? Yeah, I’ve never seen one movie.
[00:50:00] GR: No, no they’ve seen it and watched
[00:50:05] seen it
[00:50:09] GR: will be the first time.
[00:50:13] Cara: All right, until next week, my friend, your homework assignment is at the very least to watch empire strikes back, like, well, I’ll just throw one out there. You don’t even have to start at the beginning or the editor. However, those darn things go. , just pick one of them. Just meet.
[00:50:28] And may the force be with you? Gerard
[00:50:31] GR: Nanu, nanu
[00:50:34] GR: mark. Take care.[00:51:00] [00:52:00]