A high school diploma, Heckman (the author of the linked article) and others have shown, is worth $11,600 a year in incremental salary.
Why then, don't students and parents demand the results for the money spent on their education? According to Heckman, the U.S. education industry produces many "defective products" from their $660 billion factory. We wouldn't accept this from other products that we pay for - so why does education get away with it?
There are ways to produce better end products. Thank goodness!
James Heckman, a University of Chicago economist and 2009 winner of the Nobel Prize, has spent much of his career studying this point. Heckman is a realist about the challenge that public schools confront. "Most of the gap in test scores is there at age 5, before they enter kindergarten," he says. He says to address this gap, collect data, look for small changes, intervene quickly and move resources to the formulas that work. Some of the better management techniques come straight out of the 1930s, but other steps look more like an information-driven company than an old-fashioned school district.
Quiz scores, homework, attendance records - every detail of a student's performance, needs to be entered into a computer database where teachers/administrators should examine the constantly unfolding record and quickly adjust lesson plans and individual teaching strategies in response. We need to be constantly using this data on an ongoing basis to adjust our teaching and learning to provide a better product - a giant payoff!
Only one questions remains in my mind - are educators all willing to do what it takes to produce successful, prepared students?