Alternative School Policies and the Benefits of General Cognitive Skills

Eric A. Hanushek
Published Date
Economics of Education Review
pp. 447-462
School policy debates vacillate between policies emphasizing improvement in general skills and those aimed at strengthening the linkages between schools and the workplace. While these policies do not necessarily conflict, each is frequently motivated by shortcomings in the other. This paper presents basic evidence about the very substantial impacts of general cognitive skills on individual earnings and on economic growth. The calculations are then put in a school policy framework that emphasizes the importance of considering both the magnitude and the speed of quality improvements. It then considers alternative school reform policies focused on improvements in teacher quality, identifying how much change is required. Finally, teacher bonus policies are put into the context of potential benefits.