Stanford professor hopes to improve education policy by fostering value-based, data-informed decisions

February 21, 2018

By Alex Shashkevich

For several years, a debate has been ongoing in the United States over whether charter schools are good or bad for the country’s education system and the 50 million children it serves.

Supporters say that charter schools foster innovative learning experiences because they are not bound by the same governmental regulations imposed on public schools. Opponents say that charter schools deplete public schools of funding and contribute to racial segregation.

This is one of several complex issues that Stanford Professor of Education Susanna Loeb explores in a newly published book, Educational Goods: Values, Evidence, and Decision-making.

Loeb says both the supporters and opponents of charter schools – and the decision-makers who set educational policy – might not have the data they need to fully weigh the pros and cons, in part because most research has focused on test scores rather than other measures.

While test scores measure outcomes such as the knowledge students gained in school, Loeb and her co-authors encourage policy-makers and education researchers to consider the many different outcomes of an education. They hope to inspire more social science research that focuses on more than just measuring test scores.

“Being explicit about what values matter helps decision makers understand what is at stake and helps researchers orient themselves to provide the relevant evidence,” Loeb and the other scholars write.