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Education Working Paper
No. 6  September 2004

The Teachability Index:
Can Disadvantaged Students Learn?

About the Authors

Jay P. Greene
is a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute's Education Research Office, where he conducts research and writes about education policy. He has conducted evaluations of school choice and accountability programs in Florida, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and San Antonio. He has also recently published research on high school graduation rates, charter schools, and special education.

His research was cited four times in the Supreme Court's opinions in the landmark Zelman v. Simmons-Harris case on school vouchers. His articles have appeared in policy journals, such as The Public Interest, City Journal, and Education Next, in academic journals, such as The Georgetown Public Policy Review, Education and Urban Society, and The British Journal of Political Science, as well as in major newspapers, such as the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.

Greene has been a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Houston. He received his B.A. in history from Tufts University in 1988 and his Ph.D. from the Government Department at Harvard University in 1995. He lives with his wife and three children in Weston, Florida.

Greg Forster is a Senior Research Associate at the Manhattan Institute’s Education Research Office. He is the co-author of studies evaluating vouchers, charter schools, high-stakes testing, special education funding, and other education issues. He has also published op-ed articles in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and other newspapers. He received a Ph.D. with Distinction in political science from Yale University in May 2002, and his B.A. from the University of Virginia in 1995.


The authors would like to thank those who provided or helped to track down the data used in this study, including Hyon Shin and Nancy White of the U.S. Census Bureau, Chris Chatman of the National Center for Education Statistics, Peyton Craighill of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, and the staff of the help desk at the Current Population Survey.

About Education Working Papers

A working paper is a common way for academic researchers to make the results of their studies available to others as early as possible. This allows other academics and the public to benefit from having the research available without unnecessary delay. Working papers are often submitted to peer-reviewed academic journals for later publication.


Center for Civic Innovation.


EWP 6 PDF (631 kb)


Student “teachability”—the advantages and disadvantages that students bring to school—is often offered as an excuse for educational failure. Many claim that students are less teachable than they used to be, and that reforms cannot meaningfully improve student achievement due to problems like poverty and social dysfunction. This study measures student teachability by examining sixteen key social factors that affect learning.


Executive Summary

About the Authors


About Education Working Papers







Table 1: The Teachability Index

Figure 1a: The Teachability Index

Figure 1b: Component Indexes

Figure 1c: Teachability, Spending, and Achievement

Table 2: The Readiness Index

Figure 2: The Readiness Index

Table 3: The Economics Index

Figure 3: The Economics Index

Table 4: The Community Index

Figure 4: The Community Index

Table 5: The Health Index

Figure 5: The Health Index

Table 6: The Race Index

Figure 6: The Race Index

Table 7: The Family Index

Figure 7: The Family Index

Table 8: Teachability by State in 2001

Figure 8: Ranking of States by Teachability in 2001

Table 9: Validity of the Teachability Index

Table 10: The School Performance Index for 2001

Figure 10: Ranking of States by School Performance Index in 2001

Table 11: The Effect of School Choice and Accountability on School Performance

Table 12: The School Efficiency Index for 2001

Figure 12: Ranking of States by School Efficiency in 2001

Table 13: The Adjusted School Efficiency Index for 2001

Figure 13: Ranking of States by Adjusted School Efficiency in 2001


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