January 27 2010
Education-as-Usual Costing U.S. Economy $Trillions
Vicki E. Alger, Ph.D
On the heels of President Obama's pledge to freeze non-defense discretionary spending comes even more evidence that resources for schooling don't equal reform of schooling. Quality time with great teachers, not quantity time with ineffective ones, is what distinguishes economic winners and losers, according to a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Compared to their peers in 29 other countries, American 15-year olds place 21st in science literacy (see p. 6), and 25th in math literacy (see p. 12) according to the latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Focusing on education outcomes such as students' skills instead of "education-as-usual" inputs like more money and more seat time could translate into trillions more dollars for the U.S. economy. According to OECD, raising American students' PISA scores 25 points to the level of their peers in the United Kingdom and Germany could grow US GDP $41 trillion over the course of those students' lifetimes. If scores were on par with top-performing Finland, 58 points higher, US GDP could grow more than $100 trillion. Study author Eric Hanushek explains, "Money is not a predictor of success in systems." Replacing ineffective teachers is-even average replacements could make a huge difference. Replacing 2 percent of ineffective teachers gets the U.S. on par with the UK and Germany. Replace 10 percent of ineffective teachers, and "we can beat Finland."