Archives for category: Class size

Brian Jones, a former teacher in the New York City public schools, is currently a doctoral student at the City University of New York. He here explains a conundrum: Many black parents think that choice and standardized tests are good for their children, despite abundant evidence to the contrary. How should he reason with those who disagree? He focuses here on the issue of standardized testing, which compels schools–especially those serving poor and minority students–to divert time and resources to testing and test preparation, thus leaving less time for the arts and other subjects that are essential ingredients of a good education. In his experience, it is best not to argue with parents who have been persuaded by the “reformer” claims, but to listen respectfully and to “deepen the conversation,” a term he learned from Chicago teacher Xian Barrett.

 

Jones writes:

 

Likewise, when we deepen the conversation about standardized testing, we usually discover that parents and educators want similar things for our children. If standardized tests are widely and loudly touted as an antiracist measure of opportunity and fairness, some parents who are desperately searching for some measure of fairness for their children might latch onto that. Those of us who are opposed to high-stakes standardized testing shouldn’t moralize with people, or disparage their viewpoints or their experience. Rather, we have to validate their experience and find a way to deepen the conversation.

 

In my mind, we can find a lot of common ground on resources and curriculum. Of course, I think teacher training is important. It is absolutely essential that teachers be trained to respect the languages, cultures, and viewpoints of students and their families—and engage them in the learning process. But this should never lead us away from demanding the kind of educational redistribution that this country refuses to take seriously. My experience as a student has convinced me that resources are central. On scholarship, I attended an all-boys’ private high school. As one of the few students of color (let alone black students), did I experience racism and prejudice? Absolutely. However, there are aspects of my education that I wouldn’t trade for anything—the opportunity to read whole novels and discuss them in small classes, the opportunity to participate in several sports teams, to put on plays, to engage in organized debates, and to practice giving speeches. If, for my own child, I had to choose between an amazingly well-resourced school with a fabulously rich curriculum staffed with some prejudiced teachers, on the one hand, and a resource-starved school with progressive, antiracist educators who were forced to teach out of test-prep workbooks on the other, I hate to say it, but I would choose the resources every time.

 

Our society is currently spending untold sums to create more tests, more data systems, more test preparation materials, ad nauseam. And then they have the audacity to tell us that these are antiracist measures! Of course, all this focus on testing is a huge market opportunity for the private companies that provide all these services and materials. What is never under serious consideration is the idea that we could take all those same millions of dollars and create for all children the kind of cozy, relaxed, child-centered teaching and learning conditions that wealthy kids already enjoy.

It is hard to laugh about Governor Cuomo’s nonsensical proposal to demoralize teachers and destabilize public schools. He wants to change teacher evaluation so that 50% of their rating is based on their students’ test scores (he doesn’t realize that most teachers don’t teach reading and math in elementary schools); he wants 35% of their evaluation to be based on the drive-by evaluation of an independent person who doesn’t work in the school; and he wants the judgment of the principal, who sees the teachers regularly, to count for only 15%. He wants more charter schools and vouchers (he calls them “tax credits”) even though neither produces better results than public schools. It makes no sense but he won’t release funds due to public schools unless the Legislature passes his harmful proposals.

 

Cynthia Wachtell, a scholar at Yeshiva University, is a public school parent. She has written a hilarious analysis of Governor Cuomo’s plan. Among his other ill-informed ideas is a proposal to close down the schools whose test scores place them in the bottom 5% so their students don’t have to go to failing schools anymore. She gently offers a math lesson. Sorry, Governor, there will always be a 5%.

 

Therein lies the math problem. If a “school is designated as ‘falling’ if it’s in the bottom 5% of schools across the state,” then, by definition, Cuomo’s goal of “no longer … condemning our children to failing schools” is impossible. The children in the bottom 5% of NYS schools will always be in ‘failing’ schools. Math will be math. And that’s just how percentages work.

 

She tells Governor Cuomo what his state’s public schools and students really need:

 

Clearly we need to improve the education received by all of “our” children. And unlike the Governor, I actually have two children in NYS public schools. The way to help my sons and other NYS students is to reduce class size; shift away from high stakes testing; offer a well-rounded curriculum rich in the sciences, technology, physical education, and the arts; and evaluate teachers in a way that takes into consideration the unique challenges of each of their classrooms. I once sat as a parent visitor in a classroom of thirty-plus sixth graders working through an ELA test prep workbook. And, sorry Andrew, it did not make me happy.

The Network for Public Education has endorsed Bennett Kayser for re-election to the Los Angeles school board. Kayser is a retired educator. He is a strong supporter of public education. He has fought for reduced class sizes. He opposes efforts to deny due process to teachers. He opposes privatization of public education.

He is enemy number one to the California Charter Schools Association Advocates, the political action arm of the wealthy charter industry.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the charter lobby has far outspent Kayser in its effort to defeat him with a pro-charter candidate.

The charter association has distributed malicious flyers falsely implying that Kayser is a racist and anti-Latino. The flyers feature a picture of Governor Jerry Brown, falsely implying that the popular governor endorsed their candidate (he did not). Their TV ads have ridiculed Kayser’s disability (he has Parkinson’s). The anti-Kayser campaign has been scurrilous and shameful.

The LA Times says:

“Through Wednesday’s campaign filings, the charter group had spent $699,688 to support [its candidate] Rodriguez. UTLA had spent $384,109 for Kayser. Those totals far surpass donations directly to the candidates as well as the spending totals for the other contested board races.

“Since September, the donors to the charter PAC include Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings ($1.5 million), former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ($450,000), Jim Walton of the Wal-Mart founding family ($250,000) and local philanthropist Eli Broad ($155,000). All are longtime charter school backers with a broad interest in education.”

These billionaires have a specific interest in education: they want to replace public schools with charter schools, and in the case of Walton, with vouchers. They also believe in disruption as a strategy for change. Disruption is not good for children or education.

Billionaire Reed Hastings told the charter association that he looks forward to the day when local school boards are gone and almost all schools are charters.

Bennett Kayser wants to improve the public schools, not replace or destroy them. Every high-performing nation in the world has a public school system, not a system of privately managed schools.

That is why the Network for Public Education endorses Bennett Kayser for re-election to the Los Angeles school board.

There has been much discussion on the blog about the “Coffee Cup” ad sponsored by the political action arm of the California Charter Schools Association. (See here and here.)

 

Here is the ad. 

 

Kayser is accused of being anti-public school, when in fact he has been a strong supporter of public schools and public school teachers. He is a strong critic of charters. That is why the CCSAA is spending big bucks to defeat him. He has voted to reduce class size, increase teacher pay, and restore programs lost to budget cuts.

 

The broken coffee cup, Kayser and his allies believe, is a subtle reference to his hands shaking because of Parkinson’s. Why else would he drop his coffee cup? If that was the intention of the ad, it is reprehensible. If it was not, CCSA has some explaining to do.

 

 

The Network for Public Education has released its statement on the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. The statement weighs in on testing: If we have to choose between annual testing and grade span testing, we prefer the latter; but our first choice, which is not on the table, is to eliminate the federal role in testing and accountability. We believe that this role belongs to the states, not the federal government. We also believe that the original purpose of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (now called NCLB) should be restored: its was passed to promote equity for the nation’s poorest children. Testing does not create equity, and it is not the proper sphere of the federal government.

 

In addition to our recommendations about testing, we strongly support class size reduction; protection or the privacy of students from intrusive federal data collection; and assurance that federal funds are used to supplement, not supplant, local and state spending. We oppose the use of this law to expand federal funding for charter schools, which promote segregation and do not enroll students with the highest needs. We support greater accountability by the federal government and the states for the appropriate use of federal funds to provide equitable resources for the poorest and neediest students.

 

Here is our statement:

 

Summary of Network for Public Education’s comments on ESEA draft bill:

 

We support option 1 to eliminate mandated annual testing, and we urge the Senate to remove high stakes attached to standardized tests, encourage flexibility in designing assessments, and provide the right of parents to opt their children out of standardized testing.
Restore reducing class size as option that states and districts can use with their Title II funds, which is a research-based reform that also works to lower teacher attrition.
Eliminate the use of federal funds for merit pay, which has consistently failed to improve student outcomes.
Add to the reporting requirements of districts, states and the federal government so they must report trends in average class size data, as well as the disparity in class size between high and low poverty schools.
Strengthen the language around student data privacy and limit federally mandated data collection of individual students.
Oppose the diversion of resources to private and charter schools through portability of Title I funds and expansion of federal funding to charters.
Require maintenance of effort, so that states and districts cannot cut back on their own support for schools while replacing their funding with federal dollars.
We strongly urge the Senate to increase overall funding for Title I, Title II, and Title X for homeless students, especially as more than 50% of the children in our public schools are now officially classified as low income for the first time in at least fifty years.

 

 

More specifically:

 

Title I STATE PLANS:

 

We support the section entitled “Limitations” which prohibits the Secretary of Education from requiring any particular specific standards, assessments, accountability systems, or teacher or principal evaluation systems.

 

We support this section of the bill because states and districts should be allowed to craft their own standards and accountability systems, as long as they are research –based and are responsive to stakeholder and community input – neither of which is true of the currently mandated federal accountability systems and standards.

 

In this section we would like to see the language around student privacy also strengthened:

 

Section 6D removes the ability of the Secretary to “require the collection, publication, or transmission to the Department of individual student data that is not expressly required to be collected under this Act.”

 

This is rather ambiguously phrased, as it could allow for the Secretary to require states and/or districts to collect and publish individual student data as long as they do not transmit such data to the Department.

 

We would like this section to clearly prohibit the Secretary from requiring the collection or publication of ANY individual student data by states or districts, and/or restrict the Secretary from requiring that this data be transmitted to any third parties outside state and local education agencies, including the US Department of Education.

 

 

Testing:

 

We support Option 1 – to require states to give assessments only in the relevant grade spans, and to limit the footprint of the federal government in this way, especially as US children are over-tested. This has led to narrowing of the curriculum, and takes up too much instructional time and resources. As far as we know, there is no high-performing nation in the world that requires annual testing. We regret that there is no option to remove the federal mandates for testing altogether, other than sampling testing such as the NAEP, as this is a function that rightfully belongs to the states and was not part of the original purpose of ESEA. The ESEA was passed in 1965 specifically to supply federal aid to districts and schools that enrolled high proportions of poor children.

 

We would like to add two critical provisions to this section. The US Department of Education should also:

 

Discourage the attachment of high stakes to standardized tests, since high stakes have not only have been shown to be damaging to the quality of education overall but have caused the data to be less reliable as a diagnostic or analytic tool, as a result of Campbell’s Law.
Guarantee that parents have the right to opt their children out of state standardized tests.

 

The federal government should allow states to adopt their own assessments that can be used for diagnosing or improving student performance, not for labeling students, evaluating teachers, or closing schools.

 

Reporting:

 

Under the section that requires states and LEAs to report student achievement data, graduation rates, teacher qualifications, and other important metrics, disaggregated by high and low poverty schools, we would also like states to be required to report on average class sizes by grade, also disaggregated by high and low poverty schools; since class size has been shown to be a significant factor in student success, and yet accurate class size data has been difficult to find. In the Secretary’s annual report to Congress, this should include national class size data, average class size trends per state and per LEA, and disaggregated according to district and school poverty level.

 

Even though disadvantaged students tend to benefit the most from small classes, they often have much higher class sizes than those enrolled in low poverty schools. We would also like the language removed around requiring the reporting of “teacher effectiveness” as there is currently no reliable system to measure this factor.

 

Privacy:

 

In the section entitled (5) Presentation of Data in the reporting section: There is a discussion of states and LEAs including only data in their annual report cards sufficient for statistically reliable information and not revealing personally identifiable student information, which we support.

 

We would like added to “(B) STUDENT PRIVACY.— ‘In carrying this out, student education records shall not be released without written consent consistent with the Family Educational

 

Rights and Privacy Act of 1974’we would like the following words added: “and nothing shall require state or local education departments to collect, amass or share individual or personally identifiable student data with any third parties or officials, not employed directly by their agencies.”

 

Title I portability:

 

We oppose portability of funds which undermines the purpose of the Title I program –which is to support schools with high concentrations of poverty that need additional resources the most. Additionally, portability as defined in this draft would require a new level of federally-mandated bureaucracy and data collection and is a first step towards private school vouchers which we oppose.

 

Title II- High Quality Teachers and Principals:

 

This draft bill omits critical language that currently allows Title II funds to be used to reduce class size. This ommission is highly undesirable, especially as states and districts are currently using more than 30% of these funds for this purpose. Reducing class size should be restored as a spending option for states and districts. Lowering class size is one of the few reforms cited by the Institute of Education Sciences as having been proven to work to improve student learning, yet class sizes have increased in most schools across the country as a result of state and local budget cuts.

 

Small class size is particularly important as it has been shown to significantly narrow the achievement gap for poor and minority students, and yet because of funding inequities, these students are more likely to be subjected to large classes. We also oppose the “transferability” language that would allow states and LEAs to transfer up to 100 percent of the respective funds received under Titles II and IV.

 

As for the Teacher Incentive funds: We oppose the use of any federal funds to “develop, implement, or expand comprehensive performance- based compensation systems for teachers, principals, and other school leaders” as this has been proven over and over again through research and experience to be an ineffective and wasteful use of funds. Merit pay has been tried repeatedly for nearly 100 years and has never been successful. It failed to make a difference in student achievement most recently in Nashville, Chicago and New York City.

 

Title IV- Safe and Healthy Students:

 

We oppose the block granting of Title IV programs, and the elimination of specific targeted funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Promise Neighborhoods, and school counselors, each of which provide important services to students.

 

We also support the Full Service Community School program and urge the preservations of language that enables 21st Century funds to be used for community schools.

 

Title V Charter schools:

 

We oppose the section of the bill that would increase the funding and number of charter schools, and would encourage states to provide funding for facilities commensurate with the funding of public schools.​ Charter schools have been shown to increase segregation, enroll fewer at-risk students including students with disabilities and English language learners, and often feature abusive disciplinary practices and high suspension and expulsion rates. We support the language in the law that would require independent financial audits that are publicly reported, but to add that charter schools should be subject to the same governmental auditing authority that exists for public schools in the same state or locality.

 

The definition of a “high quality” charter school that is eligible for federal or state funding should include not only academic measures but also their overall rates of student enrollment, retention, suspension and expulsion of students in the highest need categories, as cited above, as well as teacher turnover rates.

 

Each state should be required to report annually on charter schools’rates of enrollment of high-needs students, including students with disabilities, English language learners, homeless students, and students who receive free lunch, as well as their overall suspension and expulsion rates, as compared to the public schools in the same district. The reporting of “students with disabilities” should disaggregate mild disabilities (such as speech disabilities) from severe cognitive, emotional, and physical disabilities that require a higher level of care and funding. The state also should audit and provide proper oversight for the lotteries and admission practices of charter schools, to ensure that all applicants have the same chance to enroll.

 

Title IX Maintenance of Effort:

 

We oppose the elimination of the maintenance-of-effort requirement that would allow states to use federal funds to displace their own funding and eliminate the requirement that states maintain at least 90 percent of their funding from the previous year.

 

Title X:

 

We support increased rather than reduced levels of funding for homeless students, the numbers of which are a record high in many localities. Instead of $65M for each of FY 2016-2021 –$5 million less than was allocated for fiscal years 2003-2007 — we support an increase in the funding for this purpose to at least $70 million per year.

 

Overall Funding:

 

The authorization levels in this draft bill are inadequate to ensure that disadvantaged students are provided an education that provides them with an equitable chance to learn. Title I and other programs would continue to be frozen at $14.9 billion for the next five years. Other programs in ESEA would also be frozen at current levels. At the same time, the number of poor children has increased dramatically in our public schools. For the first time in at least fifty years, more than 50% of the children attending our public schools come from low income families and are eligible for free and reduced price lunch. Meanwhile, our federal investment in their education is lagging. According to OECD figures, the United States is one of only three developed nations where fewer public dollars are spent on poor children than wealthier children, and where schools serving disadvantaged students have higher student/teacher ratios. Our nation must increase current funding levels for Title I and other targeted education programs to ensure that more federal dollars are provided to our neediest students.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leonie Haimson, CEO of Class Size Matters (and a dear friend), is voting YES on Proposition 3 in New York, the “Smart Schools Bond Act.”

 

I am voting no. I expect that the bulk of the money will be used to buy the devices and technology needed for Common Core testing. Leonie and I agree that bond money should not be used to buy devices that have a useful life of 3-4 years.

 

Leonie says that districts will be able to decide how they want to use the money. She believes New York City will use most of the money to build new schools and replace “temporary” trailers.

 

New York City schools, she points out, are badly overcrowded, and this new money would provide an opportunity to increase capacity and reduce class sizes.

 

She writes:

 

Each school district can use the revenue in the following ways:

 

· Purchasing educational technology equipment and facilities, such as interactive whiteboards, computer servers, desktop and laptop computers, tablets and high-speed broadband or wireless internet.
· Constructing and modernizing facilities to accommodate pre-kindergarten programs and replacing classroom trailers with permanent instructional space.
· Installing high-tech security features in school buildings.

 

While I and many other education advocates including Diane Ravitch are fervently opposed to using any bond revenue for the purchase of devices like laptops or tablets that have a useful lifetime of only a few years, as the interest on the bond act is repaid over twenty or thirty years, it is clear that districts will have the choice of how to use these funds and have a broad array of options.

 

New York City is due to receive about $780 million if Proposition 3 is approved. The Department of Education’s five year capital plan makes it clear that if the bond act passes, $490 million of city funds previously directed toward technology would now be diverted toward building more schools to alleviate overcrowding for smaller classes, creating 4,900 more seats, and the rest toward creating 2,100 seats for pre-kindergarten.

 

As the analysis in our report Space Crunch makes clear, the city’s school capital plan is badly underfunded as is. Though it will includes less than 40,000 additional seats if the Bond Act is approved – and even fewer if it isn’t – the real need is at least 100,000 seats, given existing overcrowding and projections of increased enrollment over the next five to ten years.

 

So, voters in New York. You can vote “yes,” as Leonie Haimson advises, if you believe that the money will be spent to add new classrooms and reduce class size. Or you can vote no, as I will, if you believe the money will end up paying for iPads, tablets, and other technology that will be obsolete long before the bonds are paid off. If the measure passes, I hope that Leonie is right.

John Thompson reviews Anthony Cody’s néw book THE EDUCATOR AND THE OLIGARCH. The book recapitulates Cody’s five-part debate with the Gates Foundation. Thompson says Cody demolished their spokesmen.

Thompson writes that Cody won the debate, hands down:

“They probably didn’t expect a mere teacher to assemble and concisely present such an overwhelming case against their policies. But, who knows?, perhaps they were completely unaware of the vast body of social science that Cody drew upon, and they blamed the messenger for the education research he brought to the table. The Educator and the Oligarch explains how the failed Gates reforms could create an education dystopia.”

Best of all is Thompson’s summary of Cody’s proposal for how Gates ought to be evaluated.

Example:

“Since Bill Gates, more than any other person, is responsible for the absurd evaluations that are now being imposed on teachers, Cody wonders if Gates’ practice as a philanthropist should be evaluated. If so, what would it look like? Cody makes a strong case that in the tradition of the Danielson and Marzano teacher evaluation frameworks, an abbreviated version of his evaluation would look like the following:

Standard 1: Awareness of the Social Conditions Targeted by Philanthropy

Rating: Below Standard

… Actions and statements by him and his representatives indicate ignorance of the pervasive effects of poverty, and the overwhelming research that indicates the need to address these effects directly.

Recommendation for Professional Growth: We recommend Bill Gates take a year off from his work as a philanthropist, and work as a high school instructor in an urban setting. …

Lisa Schencker of the Salt Lake Tribune reported that class sizes are rising in the state, despite an official low number. She realized that the official number of 22.8 students per class was misleading. The Tribune invited readers to write and identify large classes.

 

The Tribune asked readers last week to help us find the state’s largest classes. The Tribune received more than 100 responses via email, Facebook and Twitter — mostly from teachers.

 

One teacher in the Granite district said she had 52 students in her Utah Studies class for seventh-graders last year. A parent reported 43 students in her son’s Granite district honors English class last year. A Canyons foreign language teacher said she now has 42 students in one of her classes. A Logan School District teacher reported 56 students in one of her classes.

 

“The classes of 40 and 38 are frequently interrupted with management and behavioral issues, not enough computers in the same lab, etc.,” wrote Shelly Edmonds, a teacher at Hillcrest High, who noted she has one class with 40 kids this year.

 

Hillcrest High Advanced Placement Literature teacher Katie Bullock said she has 39 kids in one class and 100 AP Literature students overall.

 

“Try grading the amount of writing that takes place every week in an AP Lit course (or should take place … which doesn’t … because I can’t humanly keep up …),” she wrote.

 

 

Nevada is giving more than $1 Billion in tax breaks to woo automaker Tesla to build a huge factory to produce electric batteries.

The deal is controversial but not among Nevada legislators, who expect it to produce economic benefits and 6,500 jobs.

Education also produces economic benefits and jobs, but legislators don’t mind underfunding their schools, increasing class sizes, and short changing the next generation of Nevadans.

The Néw York Times says that Nevada is paying about $200,000 for each job that might be created.

Did Tesla really need the tax break to locate in Nevada?

“Richard Florida, a global research professor at New York University and a frequent critic of development incentives, said the factory would probably have been built in Nevada even without the generous subsidy.

“They had the site picked out; they started on it,” he said in an email. Companies like Tesla “exploit that information asymmetry,” creating uncertainty in a potential host state, he said. “They know where they want to locate, and then essentially game the process to get incentives from states. It is wasteful and it should be banned.”

Angie Sullivan, a teacher in Nevada who keeps me informed, sent out this Roseanne Barr video as a reaction to the Tesla handout: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0hmfBtk0WaE

This is the most absurd “report” yet. This organization says that the U.S. does not have an “efficient” school system. Finland has the most efficient school system. What can we do to become more efficient? Cut teachers’ salaries and increase class size.

Funny, when I visited Finland in 2011, I saw many classes, none larger than 16. Teachers’ pay is equivalent to U.S. pay.

“The Efficiency Index –which education systems deliver the best value for money? was released today.

US ranks nineteenth out of thirty countries in new ranking of education system efficiency

Released 19.01 EDT Thursday September 4 2014

The US ranks in the bottom half of a new international comparison of the efficiency of education systems across OECD countries – lower than Japan, Korea and many northern European countries.

The Efficiency Index –which education systems deliver the best value for money?, commissioned by GEMS Education Solutions, is the first comprehensive international analysis that looks at how efficiently education budgets are allocated in each country.

It ranks 30 OECD countries based on their expenditure on teacher costs, which account for 80 per cent of education budgets, and the pupil outcomes they achieve. In this way, it calculates which system generates the greatest educational return for each dollar invested.

The report is written by Professor Peter Dolton, Professor of Economics at Sussex University and a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics; Dr Oscar Marcenaro Gutie�rrez, Associate Professor at the University of Ma�laga; and Adam Still, Education Finance and Development Specialist at GEMS Education Solutions.

The index ranks Finland as the most efficient country in the OECD. According to the index’s econometric model, which calculates the proven statistical link between teacher salaries or class size and PISA scores, the US could match Finland high PISA’s results and still make efficiency savings by increasing class sizes and making a modest cut in teacher salaries. It finds that these results could be achieved even if the US was to increase its pupil/teacher ratio by 10 per cent.

Alternatively, if it were more efficient, the US could match Finland’s PISA results and still reduce teacher salaries by 4.7 per cent from the US average teacher salary of $41,460 to $39,520. The index argues that the US should consider addressing both teacher salary and class sizes to improve its education efficiency. As the largest country in the OECD, its overall education spend is five times that of any other country in the study and its teacher salaries are comparatively high.

The report stops short of advocating particular changes to salaries or class size in each country. It makes clear that there may be labour market, cultural, economic or political reasons why this ‘maximum’ efficiency is not possible without negative consequences. The authors have not examined the practical impact of such changes in each country. However, by showing how far countries fall short of the OECD’s most efficient system, the index provides an instructive point of comparison when Governments are allocating budgets.

The report groups the countries according to their efficiency:

1. Elite Performers: Finland, Japan and Korea score very well in both the efficiency and quality stakes.

2. Efficient and Effective: Australia, Czech Republic, New Zealand and Slovenia are all performing relatively well on efficiency and producing high PISA scores.

3. More Effective than Efficient: Overspending (too high salaries) or bloated (too many teachers): Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland. These countries perform better in terms of quality than efficiency. This may be because their system generates other outcomes that aren’t captured by PISA rankings. Alternatively, it may be because their systems are over-resourced beyond the threshold required to achieve high educational outcomes.

4. More Efficient than Effective: Underspending or underperforming: Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Norway, Sweden, UK and USA. These countries are more efficient than educationally effective. This could be because they have resource constraints that prevent them from improving quality such as low salaries may prevent the recruitment of highly skilled teachers. Alternatively, if extensive resources are already being spent, it could that the education system is flawed – and that policy changes, rather than additional resources, would improve education outcomes.

5. Inefficient and Ineffective: Brazil, Chile, Greece, Indonesia, Turkey These systems are inefficient and at the same time fail to produce good pupil outcomes.

The report finds that changes to teacher salary and pupil teacher ratio can improve efficiency because, out of 63 different inputs into the education system – from teaching materials to infrastructure – these were the only two that had a statistically significant impact on pupils’ PISA scores.

This is a powerful insight for policy makers since, unlike a child’s socio-economic background, parental support, or a child’s aspirations, governments have the policy levers to change both teacher salary and class sizes.

The report acknowledges that some countries, such as Switzerland and Germany, which both spend lavishly on their education system and achieve good results, may choose to pursue policies in which educational efficiency is not their priority. For instance, they may feel that PISA does not capture all the student outcomes that their system is aiming for.

Together, the 30 OECD countries in the study spent $2.2 trillion dollars on their education systems each year, and the average proportion of GDP that countries spend on education has been rising for decades. In an environment where state education budgets are likely to continue to be stretched and face competition from other spending priorities, the Efficiency Index sheds light on the effectiveness of the spending choices that policy-makers are currently making.

KEY FINDINGS:

Over the last 15 years Finland’s education system has been the most efficient in the OECD. Other high performers include Korea, Japan and Hungary and the Czech Republic. In contrast, Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy exhibit low efficiency.

Excellent outcomes are still possible with relatively large class sizes – despite a focus on reducing class-sizes in many western education systems. Finland and Korea, the two countries studied with the most efficient education systems, achieve good results, have relatively large class sizes – the 3rd and 5th largest of the OECD countries – and pay teachers moderate wages.

The US is in the bottom third of the efficiency index. As the biggest OECD country, it has an overall education spend five times higher than any other country in the study and pays very high teachers salaries.

Countries can be inefficient if they both underpay or overpay teachers. Some countries such as Indonesia and Brazil are inefficient because their low teachers pay makes it hard to recruit and retain high-calibre individuals into the profession. Modest extra expenditure would result in significantly better educational outcomes. Equally, higher salaries given to teachers who are already achieving excellence, such as those paid in Switzerland and Germany, may fail to increase performance and therefore harm efficiency.

In general those countries that demonstrate high efficiency also attain high educational outcomes. Five out of the top ten countries in the Efficiency Index are also in the PISA top ten.

Chris Kirk, Chief Executive, GEMS Education Solutions:

“GEMS Education Solutions commissioned the efficiency index to inform the debate about which items of educational expenditure are likely to make the greatest impact on the attainment of children.

It allows us to see which systems around the world produce the best results per pound, providing a data driven analysis that can inform policy choices. It clearly shows that some countries spend their available resources more efficiently than others.

“At a time at which many countries are struggling with tight public budgets. It also sends an important message to poorer countries that significant educational improvement is possible even with limited investment.”

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