Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Goal Posts in Education

I mentioned earlier, and discuss in my forthcoming book on food policy, that one of the great questions in determining what policies are effective or efficient is understanding what your goal is. Will agriculture policy be effective if fewer people are hungry, if farmer income went up, or if Senator Ruralstate gets reelected? Sumner is kindly pointing out this fact in education as well to Yglesias, who:
makes the following observation:
The choice program does seem to lead to a lot of consumer satisfaction, but not actual improvements in performance.
In other words, actual parents like the results, and are trying to get their kids into the program, but central planners don’t like the results. ... So the voucher program achieved the same learning objectives at a lower cost, or more bang for the buck.  Since when is that regarded as failure? ...
I’d rather judge the program on how well it actually did, using the standard economic criteria of costs and perceived customer benefits, not the single criterion used by central planners. If a policy that leads to greater consumer satisfaction at lower cost, and produces no negative side-effects in test scores, is viewed as a “failure” by progressives, then I don’t think we need to worry very much when progressives criticize the free market. 

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