Tag: education systems

Dear Ms. Weingarten: I’ll Show You Mine if You’ll Show Me Yours

Teachers’ union president Randi Weingarten writes in the Wall Street Journal today that markets are not the answer in education. She seems to have reached this conclusion based on the testimony of a few foreign teachers’ union leaders and government officials who… run official government education monopolies.

Call me old fashioned, but I prefer to reach policy conclusions based on empirical research. So after comparing the performance of alternative school systems over the past 2,000 years, I surveyed the modern econometric literature on the subject for the Journal of School Choice. What I found is that the freest, most market-like education systems consistently outperform the sorts of state monopolies preferred by Ms. Weingarten and her fellow travelers. Appended below is the chart counting up how many studies favored education markets over state school monopolies, and vice-versa, in each of six outcome areas.

If Ms. Weingarten is aware of a similar weight of scientific evidence favoring her position, she should present it. Otherwise, why would anyone bother to heed her? More puzzling still, what was it about her alleged-dog-allegedly-bites-man op-ed that the WSJ thought worth publishing?

Education, Science, and Humility

U. of Ark. political scientist and education scholar Jay Greene has been blogging about the proper role of science in education policy, and his thoughts (continued here) are well worth reading. In particular, he warns that trying to scientifically find “the one best way” of evaluating teachers or of teaching reading and then attempting to impose that putatively best solution on all children is ultimately misguided and destructive.

I’d add that it is also unscientific. Science is humble. You have to be willing to rethink and potentially discard theories that repeatedly fail to coincide with reality. Well, the theory that governments can operate effective, efficient, innovative education systems from the top down was never supported by the evidence in the first place, and that theory is now buried beneath a vast pile of contrary findings. The system best supported by the empirical evidence is a parent-driven education marketplace such as the one Greene recommends.