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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

There are many things that 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. The goal of changing the inputs that go into our schools is to improve important outcomes for students — especially long-run outcomes, such as life, liberty and the capacity to pursue happiness. (For more consideration of these outcomes, see What is Education For, Really?)

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 – such as access to health care, parent involvement, nutritionexercise and the like – are collectively known as “inputs.” For many of these, schools can have some influence but they certainly do not fully control them.

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

Understanding the priorities schools set and how both state and school district policies relate to these kinds of “inputs” takes time and a willingness to ask lots of "dumb" questions. Every school has ways of doing things; habits, procedures or traditions that are so ingrained, so normal that they are hard to even notice.

Many of these controllable inputs cost money, a challenge discussed at greater length in the “Resources” section of Ed100. Education in California is often compared to other large states like Texas, Florida and New York. It makes sense to benchmark outcome metrics against other states, and it is also important to recognize the input differences among them, which can be considerable.

The most obvious, measurable input in education is money, but a theme of Ed100 is that money is only good for what it buys - and money can buy a lot less in California than in other states. For a visual exploration of the contextual differences in American states, have a look at the "States in Motion" charts on EdSource.

Some of the outcomes that matter most will be discussed in the “Success” section of Ed100.


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

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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.
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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