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Lesson 2.5

Levers for Change:
Inputs and Outcomes

What you get out of education depends a lot on…

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Image: Levers CC Michael Janke

Many things could be done, or at least tried, to make education work better. It's impossible to do them all, so every school leader must make choices.

In choosing to make any investment of time, effort, or money, it is important to distinguish between inputs and outcomes. Inputs are the conditions you grapple with or the investments you make to change them. Outcomes are the results.

The true outcomes of education are long-term and a little lofty. You can imagine them as life, liberty and the capacity to pursue happiness. (For more consideration of these outcomes, see What is Education For, Really?) These outcomes matter a lot. But on a day to day basis it's hard to aim for them. On most days, school systems have to focus on smaller stuff -- interim outcomes like grades, scores, attendance, peace, and morale.

In ed-policy lingo, factors that can be directly changed with focus or investment are known as "inputs."

In ed-policy lingo, factors that can be directly changed with focus or investment are known as "inputs." Examples of inputs include access to health care, parent involvement, nutritionexercise and the like.

For many of these, schools can have some influence but they certainly do not fully control them.

However, there are some inputs over which local schools and districts have a great deal of control, such as:

Anti-magical thinking

It's useful to keep the idea of inputs and outcomes separate, in part, because it helps to thwart magical thinking. For example: why are we concerned about skimpy funding for schools? Because funding buys inputs, like teachers' time and training, or tablets for classrooms, or crossing guards. Why do we care about school spirit? Because it might drive inputs like more time in class. Do these inputs produce important outcomes? It depends!

Many of the "inputs" of education cost money, a challenge discussed at greater length in the “Resources” chapter of Ed100.

This lesson was updated May 29 2017, mostly to streamline it.

Review

Which ONE of the following "inputs" do schools and districts NOT have control over?

Answer the question correctly and earn a ticket.
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Questions & Comments

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user avatar
Victoria Liu April 21, 2016 at 8:21 am
I agree with:
there are other inputs over which local schools and districts have a great deal of control, such as:
the quality of their teachers,
what is included in the curriculum,
the size of the classrooms,
the kind of leaders they hire, and
what kinds of extra services they provide to students who are struggling academically.
Thanks.
user avatar
Victoria Liu April 21, 2016 at 8:19 am
California could put more budget for California's Education system for high quality Education, to support the great future of California.
user avatar
lillian.hom October 23, 2015 at 12:39 pm
Great information on those motion charts. Sobering to see California's rankings.
user avatar
harplits March 16, 2015 at 1:56 pm
The motion charts are quite exceptional. Great resource!
user avatar
jenzteam February 27, 2015 at 10:02 am
PE seems to be really important in CA and although I do agree, I also feel that languages and writing should be a higher focus.
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