Education, equality, and efficiency – An analysis of Swedish school reforms during the 1990s

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Preface This report is an English version of the 2003 Report form the SNS Welfare Policy Group (Välfärdspolitiska rådet). This version is slightly more technical than the Swedish version and contains more details on some of the analyses. The initiative to the theme of the report originated from SNS, while the research presented here to a large extent represents ongoing research projects of the individual authors. We are all empirical labor economists. Therefore, we are inclined to focus on the measurable aspects of what schools produce, in part because making sense of the data is our expertise. We also firmly believe that statistical evaluation of school performance can help guide policy and help to quantify the precision or imprecision of our knowledge of specific school reforms. Hence, outcomes such as student achievement as measured by the results on standardized tests will figure prominently in this report. This quantitative focus is not driven by the belief that outcomes that are more difficult to measure – such as democratic values – are unimportant. Nevertheless, we think that student knowledge is mainly what schools should produce. One may, of course, quibble about whether test results accurately measure ” knowledge “. Still, they clearly have some informative value. The opposite position is easily falsified by the fact that adult labor market success is predicted by the performance on standardized tests in primary school. This report is a joint product. But since we are economists we believe in the virtues of specialization. Therefore, the work in chapters 2-8 has been divided among the four of us. The division has been as follows: Anders Björklund has been primarily responsible for the material in chapters 7 and 8; Per-Anders Edin for the material in chapter 3; Peter Fredriksson has been mainly responsible for the analysis in chapters 4, 5, and 6; Alan Krueger, finally, has written chapter 2 and contributed with the reviews of the international literature in chapters 4 and 6. The writing of the report has been funded by The Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (FAS), The Swedish National Agency for School Improvement, and firms and agencies within the SNS-group (see the Swedish version for a complete list). The underlying research projects are funded by The Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (FAS), The Institute for Labour Market Policy Evaluation (IFAU), and Jan Wallanders and Tom Hedelius Research Foundation.