Improving Educational Outcomes for Poor Children
This review paper, prepared for the forthcoming Russell Sage volume Changing Poverty, considers the ability of different education policies to improve the learning outcomes of low-income children in America. Disagreements on this question stem in part from different beliefs about the problems with our nation's public schools. In our view there is some empirical support for each of the general concerns that have been raised about public schools serving high-poverty student populations, including: the need for more funding for those school inputs where additional spending is likely to pass a benefit-cost test; limited capacity of many schools to substantially improve student learning by improving the quality of instruction on their own; and the need for improved incentives for both teachers and students, and for additional operational flexibility. Evidence suggests that the most productive changes to existing education policies are likely to come from increased investments in early childhood education for poor children, improving the design of the federal No Child Left Behind accountability system, providing educators with incentives to adopt practices with a compelling research base while expanding efforts to develop and identify effective instructional regimes, and continued support and evaluation of a variety of public school choice options.
A version of this paper was presented at the Institute of Research on Poverty conference "Changing Poverty," which was held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison May 29-30, 2008, with financial support from the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Russell Sage Foundation. This paper is forthcoming in fall 2009 in the Russell Sage volume Changing Poverty coedited by Maria Cancian and Sheldon Danziger. Thanks to Helen Ladd, Betsey Stevenson, the editors, and conference participants at the University of Wisconsin's Institute for Research on Poverty and the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank and University of Pennsylvania for helpful comments. All opinions and any errors are of course ours alone. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Jacob, Brian and Jens Ludwig ( 2009 ) “Improving educational outcomes for poor children.” In Changing Poverty , Changing Policies , Edited by Maria Cancian and Sheldon Danziger. New York: Russell Sag e Foundation Press. pp. 266 - 300.