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Productivity is sometimes seen as a dirty word in education

BY Laura Anderson
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Marguerite Roza

Originally published in New York State Association of School Business Officers, The Reporter, Fall 2015. Reposted in Education Next, March 2016.

In this article, Marguerite Roza consider how school systems can improve productivity, recognizing that much of what matters—namely, the human factor—can’t be centrally managed and scaled across schools. Far from dehumanizing students as widgets, the productivity we’re studying shows it’s precisely the unique interplay of human factors in a school that drives productivity and success.

The data show that two schools with the same demographics can get the same amount of money and even spend it in roughly the same way yet still get wildly different student outcomes. Why? Relationships between staff and students matter, as do community factors and individual teachers and staff. Yet too often policymakers’ instinct is to require that resources be spent across all schools in uniform ways that reflect “best practice.” If we want schools to figure out how to do the most with what they have, they need latitude to leverage their human factors and make spending tradeoffs that work best for their own mix of students and adults.

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