Don’t Change the Incentives—Don’t Change the Results


   Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives. It’s not their money, of course they’ll waste it.

    Wherein we see an example of government eternal–costs increase–results don’t. It’s the lack of proper incentives. If you want a good cake, you don’t pay the chef for the cost of ingredients, you pay him for the taste of the cake.

More Spending Adds Up to Decline in Math, Reading Scores
Oct 31, 2015 by Heritage Foundation

New results are in from NAEP, the test known as the “report card” for the nation’s schools. They’re not good.

The U.S. Department of Education just released data from the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress, a nationally representative test measuring student achievement in mathematics and reading. The NAEP, administered every other year in math and reading, often is called the nation’s report card.

There no doubt will be numerous analyses of all the data that NAEP provides, including student subgroups, achievement gaps, state-specific results, charter performance, and progress (or lack thereof) over time.

But at first glance, the new results paint a picture of continued lackluster academic performance.

Math and reading achievement declined for both fourth- and eighth-graders from 2013 to 2015. Mathematics achievement declined at both the fourth- and eighth-grade levels, and reading achievement declined significantly for eighth-graders.

Chart by John Fleming

This is the first time since NAEP began being administered in 1990 that we’ve seen declines like this.

Only slightly more than one-third of children in grades 4 and 8 are proficient in reading; this figure is relatively unchanged, and achievement gaps between students remain.

These stagnant outcomes—and in some cases declines—in academic performance come despite continued increases in education spending, as noted in the chart above. These underwhelming outcomes add to the evidence that ever-increasing government spending is not the key to improving education.

Those concerned with improving education should focus not on how much is spent, but who can direct spending. Until the answer is parents, empowered through school choice options, this trend is likely to continue.


   Only incentives will improve scores and the incentives in government service are always counterproductive. Show up for work and don’t be convicted. Live long and prosper with a nice pension.

Government Job or Respect–Which’ll It Be?
Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson, Ph.D.
Author, “Days of Songs and Mirrors: A Jacobite in the ‘45.
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies


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