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Clive Belfield, (917) 821-9219,
Dan Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

International Efficiency Index Distracts, Fails To Advance Understanding

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Sept. 23, 2014) – A new report from GEMS Education Solutions scored and ranked national education systems worldwide based on their efficiency. The news media picked up on the report and asserted, based on the index, America's schools could be more efficient if teachers were paid less and class size was increased. However, a review out today, counters that the report does not advance our understanding of how to make education more efficient.

Clive Belfield, Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY), reviewed The Efficiency Index for the Think Twice think tank review project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice. Professor Belfield is an Economist specializing in resource allocation and cost-effectiveness.

The report, supported by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), measured efficiency based on test scores, and resource use analyzed in terms of teachers wages and pupil-teacher ratios. It looked at costs for teachers and educational outcomes, and did not consider socioeconomic differences.

In his review, Belfield finds the assumptions that efficiency is best analyzed through international comparisons of test score data to be problematic. He states, "This type of analysis has contributed very little to the improvement of educational policy in the US."

Regarding the report's usefulness, he finds "the policy implications that flow from the report's own analysis are unrealistic and by the authors' own admission 'practically impossible.'"

Belfield cites weaknesses based on the study's three key elements: (1) the output measure is questionable; (2) the input measures are unclear: and (3) the econometric method by which they are correlated does not have a straightforward economic interpretation.

In his conclusion, Belfield says that the report serves to distract policymakers instead of informing. "The report's policy proposals derive from an abstract model that gives very little consideration to existing research (which is now extensive and high quality), to how resources are allocated, and to how education professionals make decisions."

Put simply, Belfield says "the report does not advance our understanding of how to make education provision more efficient."

Read the full review at:

Find The Efficiency Index on the web:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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