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Making Money Matter: Financing America's Schools
processes of teaching and learning. The focus on classrooms has also raised awareness of the need to ensure that students come to school ready and able to learn. The institutional perspective on school performance has highlighted fundamental disagreements about the way Americans have conceived of their public schools for the better part of a century and a half, by calling into question the traditional reliance on government both to fund and to supply public education and by raising the possibility of giving greater attention to market options for supply (such as public or private school choice for parents and contracting-out to private providers for services).
These advances in the understanding of educational productivity will be further enhanced as researchers work on developing more accurate and comprehensive outcome measures and as policy makers systematically try and evaluate instructional and policy options.
No matter how much progress is made in understanding productivity through improved research and practice, there is an important sense in which education continues to be and probably always will be indeterminate. In the foreword to the 1976 volume on indeterminancy in education, Arthur Wise noted that indeterminacy was used in several senses in the book: as lack of a consensus on the aims of education as well as a state of being "not fixed," "not clear," "not established," or "not settled" (McDermott, 1976:x). He also noted, however, that in mathematics ''an equation is said to be 'indeterminate' when it can be satisfied by more than one value for each unknown" and he asked "Is the search to reduce technical indeterminacy in education a search for equations which can be satisfied by only one value for each unknown?"
We suggest that indeterminacy will always characterize educational production because of the impossibility (and undesirability) of standardizing the characteristics and behavior of the key factors of production in the education productivity equation: teachers and students. In other words, the search for answers to improving school performance and student achievement will never yield just one value—that is, solutions that will work for all schools and students in all times and places.
In the face of this indeterminacy, there are no simple answers about how to use school finance to make schools better. Instead, we seek to identify major strategies for change and to synthesize and evaluate the evidence on how well and under what conditions such strategies might contribute to meeting our goals for an education finance system. We will return to this task in Part III.