I think it’s pretty intuitive that better-nourished kids will do better in school, via Ezra Klein comes Tim Harford explaining that the combination of Jamie Oliver’s drive for better school lunches and the UK’s rather comprehensive testing let us put the proposition to the test:
Their answer – a provisional one, since they are still refining the research – is that feeding primary school kids less fat, sugar and salt, and more fruit and vegetables, has a surprisingly large effect. Authorised absences, the best available proxy for illness, fell by 15 per cent in Greenwich, relative to schools in similar London boroughs. And relative to other boroughs, the proportion of children reaching Level Four in English rose by four and a half percentage points (more than six per cent), while the proportion of children achieving Level Five in Science rose by six points, or almost 20 per cent.
Of course there’s a strain of liberal in the United States which holds that it’s illegitimate to use student test scores as a way of measuring the efficacy of education policies. But from where I sit this looks pretty convincing. Meanwhile on the flipside there’s an unfortunate tendency in some education policy circles to act as if we should only try to improve student performance through methods that antagonize teacher’s unions. But better lunch works too, it seems.