Book Review

Earning and Learning: How Schools Matter

Reviewed by Art Stellar,
Superintendent, Kingston City School District, Kingston, N.Y.


Educational research and common sense often coincide, but at times they dissociate. Earning and Learning, edited by Susan Mayer and Paul Peterson, discharges both.

Few doubt that the earning power of persons with lots of schooling is generally higher than those with less or that students who take more rigorous mathematics courses learn more math. The research here confirms such publicly held assumptions, while placing major caveats around the generic notion that lower class size is always a plus.

In 13 scholarly articles, the editors focus on the positive relationship between cognitive test results, the quantity and quality of schooling and income. The volume’s intent is to prove or disprove this focus and identify the effect of various school reforms, particularly those with the most potential for improving schools. They achieve this purpose.

Superintendents will appreciate the conclusion that "School reforms that are likely to yield the highest payoff are politically the more controversial." Some popular reforms also may be worthwhile, but the costs for more time in school and smaller classes are usually too high to justify. Superintendents might question the reforms connected with the greatest return--national and/or state examinations, school choice and curriculum reform.

(Earning and Learning: How Schools Matter, edited by Susan Mayer and Paul Peterson, Brookings Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 1999, 375 pp. with index, $42.95 hardcover, $18.95 softcover)