Friday, July 14, 2006

Home Prices Reflect Our Highest Priorities

From Columbus, OH a recent study by OSU researcher Donald Haurin suggests that standardized test scores, one measure of quality in public schooling, are having an effect on home prices. Haurin found evidence that home prices increased by around 7 percent with every 20 percent increase in standardized test scores--a very large increase in scores indeed. The study also suggests less parental enthusiasm for a value-added approach to testing. Measuring test improvement from 4th grade to 9th grade had very little impact on home prices.

These findings should not surprise. It might be soft measurement to some scientists, but community effects and peer effects are serious business to parents and can mean the difference between a good choice and a terrible choice when it comes to their child's education. Information is key. Good information doesn't generally come from people who are not well connected or well informed. See Schneider et al's book Choosing schools: Consumer Choice and the Quality of American Schools for a solid discussion on this very important topic. Parents understand that high test scores mean bright kids from "good" homes with active parents who have had many advantages during their lifetime. Parents also understand that growth models in education, or a value-added approach reflect pretty good schools working with struggling students from less advantaged backgrounds. Schools posting high value-added marks may even be better for some children. But many parents with money know what they want. They want a community of high achievers.

There is a lot we value in this world. Our children are at the top of that list. It's tough as policy makers to interfere with what parents deem best for their kids, however deleterious the effects for the school system as a whole may be. These types of studies remind us that in some ways it's a jungle out there. We must pay attention.


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