Hoover Institution (Stanford, CA) – Eric Hanushek, the Hoover Institution’s Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow, has been awarded the Yidan Prize, the world’s most prestigious education accolade, for his pioneering research on improving the educational outcomes of students.

Founded by philanthropist and entrepreneur Charles Chen Yidan, the prize is given to two recipients each year in separate categories. Hanushek was awarded the 2021 prize for education research, joining Rukmini Banerji, CEO of the Pratham Education Foundation and this year’s winner of the prize for education development, in a distinguished group of nine other laureates who have been bestowed the honor since it was established in 2016.

Hanushek and Banerji will each receive $3.9 million, funding that will support the creation of innovative education projects for the benefit of millions of students worldwide. Hanushek noted that half of his award funding will support scholars in Africa who are searching for ways to positively influence education policy and ultimately enhance economic development in their respective countries.

“I am deeply honored to have been awarded the Yidan Prize for Education Research. This is a very important prize, because it puts a spotlight on the importance of research and evaluation for improving education around the world,” Hanushek said in his acceptance speech.

According to a statement from the Yidan Prize Foundation, Hanushek was recognized by an independent panel of judges for transforming education research and policy internationally.

“Like no one else, Eric has been able to link the fields of economics and education. From designing better and fairer systems for evaluating teacher performance to linking better learning outcomes to long-run economic and social progress, he has made an amazing range of education policy areas amenable to rigorous economic analysis,” said Andreas Schleicher, chair of the Yidan Prize judging panel on education research.

Condoleezza Rice, Director of the Hoover Institution, said, “Eric Hanushek is a renowned expert in his field and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award. He believes that we have an obligation in this country to put forth our very best efforts to level the socioeconomic playing field through the power of a good education.”

In an interview about the significance of the Yidan Prize, Hanushek explained that throughout his five-decade-long career, his research has largely focused on the premise that K–12 education will not progress unless policy decisions are based on rigorous evaluations of student performance. Notably, he has concluded that solely increasing government expenditures to education does not directly correlate with greater student achievement.

Hanushek has also examined the public education’s system of tying teacher compensation to professionals’ years of experience and number of advanced degrees. He argues that evidence has historically shown that neither factor has proven to boost student outcomes. Alternatively, Hanushek developed the concept of value-added analysis, which measures teacher effectiveness based on what they have added to a student’s prior knowledge base and skill sets, and advocates incorporating that into teacher evaluations and pay.

Hanushek pioneered another area of research that focuses on how aggregate student achievement affects national economic outcomes. He has demonstrated that nations with stronger rates of academic achievement will ultimately enjoy higher economic growth and per-capita income levels. However, his research has also underscored that even in developed countries such as the United States, wide income disparities exist because although the labor market pays generous wages to people with advanced skill sets, it punishes those who haven’t had the opportunity to receive a quality education.

This underscores the problems that we have with income distribution and future earnings. If we give bad education to poor kids, their future incomes will be low. Such conditions will perpetuate generations of poverty within families,” Hanushek explains. “The challenge will be delivering these young people a quality education so that they can acquire the necessary skills to achieve prosperity.”

Over the past three years, Hanushek has chaired the Hoover Education Success Initiative (HESI), which advances his and colleagues’ scholarly research to policy makers in states and school districts across the country. HESI has offered bold recommendations on issues that are central to improving the quality of K–12 education in America, including certification and graduation pathways, teacher compensation, school accountability, school choice, and the management of school budgets.

“Hoover scholars conduct fundamental research but also look for mechanisms with which we can apply that research to the formation of good policy decisions. The Yidan Prize reinforces that idea,” Hanushek said.

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