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Money Myth, The

School Resources, Outcomes, and Equity

W. Norton Grubb

Publication Year: 2009

Can money buy high-quality education? Studies find only a weak relationship between public school funding and educational outcomes. In The Money Myth, W. Norton Grubb proposes a powerful paradigm shift in the way we think about why some schools thrive and others fail. The greatest inequalities in America’s schools lie in factors other than fiscal support. Fundamental differences in resources other than money—for example, in leadership, instruction, and tracking policies—explain the deepening divide in the success of our nation’s schoolchildren. The Money Myth establishes several principles for a bold new approach to education reform. Drawing on a national longitudinal dataset collected over twelve years, Grubb makes a crucial distinction between “simple” resources and those “compound,” “complex,” and “abstract” resources that cannot be readily bought. Money can buy simple resources—such as higher teacher salaries and smaller class sizes—but these resources are actually some of the weakest predictors of educational outcomes. On the other hand, complex resources pertaining to school practices are astonishingly strong predictors of success. Grubb finds that tracking policies have the most profound and consistent impact on student outcomes over time. Schools often relegate low-performing students—particularly minorities—to vocational, remedial, and special education tracks. So even in well-funded schools, resources may never reach the students who need them most. Grubb also finds that innovation in the classroom has a critical impact on student success. Here, too, America’s schools are stratified. Teachers in underperforming schools tend to devote significant amounts of time to administration and discipline, while instructors in highly ranked schools dedicate the bulk of their time to “engaged learning,” using varied pedagogical approaches. Effective schools distribute leadership among many instructors and administrators, and they foster a sense of both trust and accountability. These schools have a clear mission and coherent agenda for reaching goals. Underperforming schools, by contrast, implement a variety of fragmented reforms and practices without developing a unified plan. This phenomenon is perhaps most powerfully visible in the negative repercussions of No Child Left Behind. In a frantic attempt to meet federal standards and raise test scores quickly, more and more schools are turning to scripted “off the shelf” curricula. These practices discourage student engagement, suppress teacher creativity, and hold little promise of improving learning beyond the most basic skills. Grubb shows that infusions of money alone won’t eradicate inequality in America’s schools. We need to address the vast differences in the way school communities operate. By looking beyond school finance, The Money Myth gets to the core reasons why education in America is so unequal and provides clear recommendations for addressing this chronic national problem.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

About the Author

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xvi

In many ways, this book returns to concerns about school resources that started my research career nearly forty years ago. The examination in my dissertation of a problem in the “old” school finance—the issue of how district financing responds to state revenues—was incorporated into an early...

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Introduction: Resources, Effectiveness, and Equity in Schools

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pp. 1-22

Adequate funding has been a worry throughout the history of public schooling. During the first half of the nineteenth century, a prolonged effort took place to shift from voluntary support—charity schooling for the poor, private schooling for others—to tax-based support so that all...

Part I: Implications of the Improved School Finance

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Chapter 1: Moving Beyond Money:The Variety of Educational Resources

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pp. 25-52

Despite the demands of generations of reformers for more funding, there are too many puzzles in the myth of money to ignore. The substantial increases in spending throughout the last century have neither reduced the need for reforms nor eliminated many inequalities in resources and outcomes...

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Chapter 2: Multiple Resources, Multiple Outcomes:Testing the Improved School Finance with the National Educational Longitudinal Survey of the Class of 1988

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pp. 53-76

The challenge for improving schools, based on the approach presented in chapter 1, is to identify which school resources—now broadly defined as simple, compound, complex, and abstract—are effective. In this chapter, I discuss the rich data from the National Educational Longitudinal Survey of...

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Chapter 3: When Money Does Matter: Explaining the Weak Effects of School Funding

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pp. 77-90

In the previous chapter, I identified the school resources that enhance a variety of schooling outcomes.This was the first task required of improved approaches to school resources.The second task is to understand better what role money plays in enhancing these effective resources—whether, as the...

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Chapter 4: Families as Resources: The Effects of Family Background and Demographic Variables

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pp. 91-112

School resources are not the only inputs that matter to outcomes. At least since the charity schools for the poor of the early nineteenth century, educators have noticed that the families from which children come—poor or rich, immigrant or native-born, working-class or middle-class, black or...

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Chapter 5: Students as Resources: The Effects of Connectedness to Schooling

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pp. 113-128

Students are themselves resources for learning, just as various school practices and dimensions of family background are. If students are absent from school, or mentally distracted, or unconvinced about the value of schooling, then even the best instruction and the most supportive school climate may...

Part II: Dynamic Inequality and the Effects of School Resources over Time

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Chapter 6: Equity and Inequality: From Static to Dynamic Conceptions

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pp. 131-157

The first five chapters of this book were principally about the effectiveness of school resources, but expanded the conception of resources well past the simple resources that preoccupy most policy discussions. Of course, the results reported in those chapters also shed a great deal of light on inequalities...

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Chapter 7: Dynamic Inequality: Schooling Outcomes over Time

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pp. 158-174

The hypothesis of dynamic inequality is that schooling outcomes may diverge over time, adding inequalities created during the entire trajectory of formal schooling to those inequalities that students bring with them to school. Only by examining these possibilities empirically can we know...

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Chapter 8: Correcting Dynamic Inequality in Practice: Exploring What Schools Do for Low-Performing Students

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pp. 175-204

In the previous chapter, I confirmed that inequality among students increases over the period from eighth to tenth to twelfth grade, in a pattern I have referred to as dynamic inequality. The increases over time are most strongly related to family background and to demographic variables, including...

Part III: Implications for School Practice, Education Policy, and Litigation

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9Making Resources Matter: Implications forSchool-Level Practice

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pp. 207-229

In thinking about how to make education more effective and more equitable, I start with the school as the unit of reform. Many of the most effective resources identified in chapters 2 and 7 involve school-level policies, such as decisions to place students in general, traditional vocational, or remedial...

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Chapter 10: Supporting the Improved School Finance: District, State, and Federal Roles

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pp. 230-253

In the previous chapter, I focused on schools as the basic unit of reform, partly because many effective resources must be developed at the school level. But schools exist within districts, districts within states, and states within a federal government increasingly determined to shape education according to its own...

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Chapter 11: The Implications for Litigation of the Improved School Finance

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pp. 254-266

In the pursuit of educational equity, litigation has played an enormous role in a variety of areas—in racial desegregation, culminating in the Brown v. Board of Education decision and various efforts to enforce it; in the establishment of linguistic rights for English learners, starting with the Lau v. Nichols case; in a variety of cases related to gender equity; and in special education...

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Chapter 12: The Implications for Reform: Conceptions of Schooling and the Role of the Welfare State

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pp. 267-288

By now, we can see more clearly why the money myth—the belief that “the question of sufficient revenue lies back of almost every other problem,” and the faith that more money might solve a variety of educational problems— is often wrong, or at best incomplete.A great deal of money is wasted, for a...

Appendix A

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pp. 289-293

Appendix B

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pp. 294-316


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pp. 317-352


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pp. 353-384


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pp. 385-400

E-ISBN-13: 9781610446372
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871543660

Page Count: 416
Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Education -- Economic aspects -- United States.
  • Public schools -- United States -- Finance.
  • Education -- United States -- Finance
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