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Does Spending Money on Education Help? A Reaction to the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal NAEP SAT

Wainer, Howard
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Educational Assessment, Educational Finance, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), State Differences, Statistical Analysis


(7pp.) This paper disputes the implications of a table produced by the Heritage foundation and printed in the Wall Street Journal June 22, 1993. That table presents the average per pupil expenditure by (U.S.) state, the state's SAT rank (out of 51) and its NAEP rank (out of 42), and concludes that "many states with consistently high test scores spend well below average per pupil on education. In contrast, the states that spend the most have among the lowest test scores." The author points out several factors that could cause problems with these figures, but focuses on only one factor: self selection on the SAT--"in some states only a very small percentage of students opt to take the SAT, in others a large proportion do..." He also points out that this factor does not affect the NAEP scores which come from a randomly-selected sample of eighth graders. He concludes that: 1) if the more reasonable NAEP rankings are used as the dependent variable in trying to assess the relationship between average per pupil expenditures and student performance, a small relationship in a direction opposite that suggested by the Heritage Foundation is seen--"that for every thousand dollars spent a state's NAEP ranking improves by two places;" and 2) "the NAEP rankings are a more suitable dependent variable for such comparisons." (JGL)

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