tive practice concentrating on specifying the exact nature of what goes on inside the classroom and the school that seems to matter for student performance. The third lens offers an institutional perspective on schools and educational productivity, suggesting that the environments in which schools function exercise a crucial influence on the educational choices schools make (or have thrust upon them). Like the first lens, the third lens is not specifically concerned with how schools use resources to improve effectiveness; instead, lens 3 focuses on creating conditions that will encourage school personnel to use their resources well.

We adopted these lenses as a heuristic device, not intending to suggest that research neatly falls into these categories. The lenses have proven helpful to us, however, in sifting a large amount of evidence and in understanding why the messages from research about educational productivity are so difficult to bring into sharp relief.

Lens 1: Input-Output Studies

Input-output studies (also known as studies of the education production function) have fueled the fires of debate over whether money matters in education since the Coleman report of the mid-1960s produced its surprising and counter-intuitive finding that school resources (at least those it measured) did not have much effect on the academic achievement of students.

The Coleman report became the progenitor of literally hundreds of additional studies, not only because of the controversial nature of its conclusions, but also because it represented one of the most massive and complex social science efforts that had been mounted up to that time. It involved a huge data collection effort (the Equality of Educational Opportunity Survey) that gathered information on 570,000 students and 60,000 teachers from a sample of 4,000 schools across the country. It entailed special testing of students in five grades on their verbal, reading, and mathematics comprehension. Students also filled out extensive surveys regarding their family background and other education-related factors (such as the amount of time they spent on homework, their classroom experiences, and their classmates). Teachers provided information on their educational backgrounds, professional activities, working conditions, and attitudes about school. In addition, extensive information on school facilities was also collected. Coleman and his colleagues utilized the most sophisticated statistical techniques available to look at the effects of school resources on student achievement while taking account of differences in the background characteristics of students and other likely influences on educational outcomes.

The Coleman report finding that drew the most attention and controversy and that has been studied and debated ever since was:

Taking all these results together, one implication stands out above all: that schools bring little influence to bear on a child's achievement that is independent of his background and general social context; and that this very lack of an

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement