The Beacon Hill Institute for
Public Policy Research

8 Ashburton Place
Boston, Massachusetts 02108-2770

phone: 617.573.8750
fax: 617.720.4272
web site:

For immediate release:
Thursday, May 20, 2004
12:01 a.m.

Frank Conte, Communications,
617-573-8050; 8750

Education study finds that more state money, smaller classes have failed to improve Massachusetts schools.

BOSTON – A new study by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University shows that new spending undertaken by the state under the aegis of the 1993 Education Reform Act has not improved the performance of public schools.

Under the Act, the state has increased education spending by $2 billion a year, permitting schools to raise teachers’ salaries and reduce class size. Yet more money, higher salaries and smaller classes have not improved performance on the state’s Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests. The finding comes at a time when students are taking their 2004 MCAS tests and the state is under a new court order to increase funding of poorer districts.

Authors Sanjiv Jaggia and Vidisha Vachharajani wrote the study, Money for Nothing: The Failures of Education Reform in Massachusetts for the Beacon Hill Institute, where both serve as economists. Jaggia is also Professor of Economics at Suffolk University. The findings were obtained by applying the Beacon Hill Institute Education Assessment Model (BEAM) to 2003 MCAS scores and to a number of policy and socioeconomic variables that explain performance on the MCAS.

>BEAM, which was developed by Jaggia, is a “value-added” model that focuses on how changes in explanatory variables affect contemporaneous test scores at the school district level. The model was estimated for English and Mathematics tests administered for grades 4, 8 and 10.

The results are:
•Increases in per-pupil expenditures have, in most instances, had no effect on performance and in one instance (10th grade English) worsened performance.
•Decreases in the student-teacher ratio (and, therefore, in class size) have, in most instances, worsened performance and in no instance improved performance.
• Increases in teachers’ salaries have not, in any instance, improved performance (and, in two instances, worsened performance).
• Increases in per-pupil non-instructional expenditures have not, in any instance, improved performance.

Factors that do explain performance are property values (as measured by the Equalized Valuation Index), participation in the free/reduced price lunch program (a measure of poverty) and past test scores.

Commenting on the study, David G. Tuerck, Executive Director of the Beacon Hill Institute, observed that “the state legislature and now the state judiciary have been spending more and more on education with a blind eye to ineffectiveness of new spending on school performance.” Said Tuerck: “This study, like our earlier studies, shows that more money and smaller classes are not helping kids learn. Until the state and the courts absorb this lesson, education reform will amount to nothing more than a $2-billion-a-year annual drain on the state budget.”

The study further shows how the state can improve school performance by using BEAM to identify schools that do a particularly good – or particularly bad – job of teaching children, given the socioeconomic circumstances that those children bring to the classroom. The study shows how three districts, Hadley, Eastham and Mansfield are “beating the odds” in terms of their success in getting children to learn. The study provides a ranking of all districts in terms of their success (or failure) in getting students to perform well on the MCAS.

Full Study Here (PDF)