Education production functions in policy making: a critical analysis

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Virginia Tech


The conceptual, methodological, and empirical issues of education production function analysis were examined. Specific issues relating to model design, proxy and variable selection, levels of analysis, standards of adequacy, and implications for policy were addressed.

Selected studies and dissertations published since the Equal Education Opportunity Report that identified any positive significant relationship between financial resources and student achievement were evaluated. Each study was examined with reference to conceptual and empirical problems of analysis. Specifically, the researcher identified measures of dependent and independent variables, the level of data aggregation, the direction and effect of independent variables, characteristics of the sample, the statistical methodology employed in the analysis, and the conclusions of the study.

This research discussed factors that result in discrepant findings in the relationship between expenditures and achievement. From this perspective, conclusions about the use of education production function studies in assessing this relationship were stated. The examination of empirical studies provided a context for the identification of conceptual, methodological, and data issues necessary to assess the potential of production function analyses to contribute to policy decisions.