Areas of Expertise
Sunny Ladd talks about an alternative to standardized testing that has shown great promise in other countries.
A leading education economist, Ladd sees education as a crucial public good. Her scholarship examines the value that governments place on education as illustrated by how money gets spent -- or not.
Helen F. Ladd is the Susan B. King Professor Emerita of Public Policy and Economics at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. Her education research focuses on school finance and accountability, teacher labor markets, school choice, and early childhood programs. With colleagues at Duke University and UNC, she has used rich longitudinal administrative data from North Caroline to study school segregation, teacher labor markets, teacher quality, charter schools, and early childhood programs. With her husband, Edward Fiske, she has written books and articles on education reform efforts in New Zealand, South Africa, the Netherlands, and England.
She is the co-author or co-editor of 12 books. These include Holding Schools Accountable: Performance-Based Reform in Education (Brookings Institution, 1996); The Handbook of Research in Education Finance and Policy (2008 and second edition 2015), books on school reform in New Zealand and South Africa, and a forthcoming book entitled, Educational Goods, Values, Evidence and Decision Making. From 1996-99 she co-chaired a National Academy of Sciences Committee on Education Finance. In that capacity she is the co-editor of two books: a set of background papers, Equity and Adequacy in Education Finance and the final report, Making Money Matter: Financing America’s Schools. She is currently a member of a National Academy study of financing early care and education with a highly qualified workforce.
Prior to 1986, she taught at Dartmouth College, Wellesley College, and at Harvard University, first in the City and Regional Planning Program and then in the Kennedy School of Government. She graduated with a B.A. degree from Wellesley College in 1967, received a master's degree from the London School of Economics in 1968, and earned her Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University in 1974.
She was president of the Association for Public Policy and Management in 2011 and, from its founding in 2008 until 2017 was co-chair of the national campaign for a Broader, Bolder Approach to Education.. Before she shifted to education policy, her research focused on state and local public finance, and she was active in the National Tax Association, which she served as president in 1993-94. She has also been a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, a senior research fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. With the support of two Fulbright grants, she spent the spring term of 1998 in New Zealand studying that country’s education system and the spring term of 2002 doing similar research in South Africa. More recently, she spent a tern as a visiting researcher at the University of Amsterdam examining the Netherlands’ long experience with parental choice and weighted student funding, and two months in London at the Institute for Fiscal Studies pursuing research on school improvement and English academies.