I came across this excellent review and discussion, by Andrew Leigh of economics.com.au (a great site) of a very interesting paper on education performance (by Brian Byrne of the University of New England), during the summer. Essentially, it uses that treasure trove of the social scientist – identical twins – to attempt to measure the effect of teacher performance on educational outcomes. The entire post and its various links and comments are all worth a read, because the more you read about the subject, the more fascinating it gets.
For example, the paper could easily have been publicised as a measure of the effect of class size but – tell this one to teachers and indeed parents out there – the literature is generally agreed that class size, for most age groups, has no distinguishable impact, hence the authors chose to focus on teacher quality, which after all is much harder to measure, instead.
There’s also a good discussion of what percentages count as not important. For example, even if the bulk of performance is determined by the child, not the teacher or the classroom, an 8% boost to performance is still better than none.
The ‘everything comes back to Bord Snip Nua’ digression: if indeed class size is not the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to our children’s future, perhaps it could take a slightly lower priority on the pecking order of What Must Not Be Touched in our public expenditure.