Data in Policy Debate: How Education Data Can Be Presented Different Ways

We were doing some research on education spending, and found such interesting presentations of the data that we decided to do a post about these presentations instead (for now).

Your exercise during this post: after looking at each graph, before moving on, check three things with yourself:

  • What is your initial knee-jerk conclusion from the data?

  • What do you think most people might conclude from this graph in isolation?

This should be a lot of fun.

Let’s take a look first at a chart that shows education spending in the US (inflation-adjusted) over time:


(Heritage Foundation article)

Some people may celebrate our increasing investment in education; others may bemoan increased government spending on education.

Let’s take a look at what might be behind much of this spending growth:

(CATO Article)

We’ve nearly doubled the number of teachers per student in the past 40 years, and the same two perspectives might arise.

But we care about results, so let’s look at how US education results might have changed:

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a US Department of Education branch, math, science, and reading scores haven’t improved.

Is your reaction an objection (“this isn’t a fair way to look at the data!”) or agreement (“this tells the story well!”)?

We dug a bit deeper and have a few other ways of looking at it, but will save those for another post. We’d love to get your input first!


Erik Fogg

We do politics, but we don't do the thinking for you.