Distributive decisions in education: Goals, trade-offs, and feasibility constraints

Ken Shores,
Susanna Loeb
Year of publication
Theory and Research in Education

Educators, policymakers, and citizens face questions of how to allocate scarce resources in the pursuit of competing goals for children and youth. Our goal in this article is to provide decision-makers with a framework for considering allocative problems in education, explicitly highlighting the implications of relevant feasibility constraints. We assume that the decision-maker cares about children's present and future welfare and that she gives priority to children whose welfare is lower. We highlight four especially relevant constraints: scarcity of resources, buy-in from community members, high-stakes consequences of skill development, and measurement of desired outcomes. Using four cases to illustrate common situations decision-makers face, we show that the framework provides both some understanding of the distributive decisions that are made in practice and some structure for thinking about how to optimize decisions in non-ideal settings.

Suggested Citation

Shores, K., & Loeb, S. (2016). Distributive decisions in education: Goals, trade-offs, and feasibility constraints. Theory and Research in Education, 14(1), 107-124