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Box 90245, Duke University
Durham, NC 27708-0243
214A Sanford Building, Sanford School of Public Policy
Durham, NC 27708


(919) 613-7352



Helen F. Ladd
Susan B. King Professor of Public Policy
Professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy
Professor of Economics
Affiliate of the Center for Child and Family Policy

Areas of Expertise


Ph.D., Harvard University (1974)

Sunny Ladd talks about an alternative to standardized testing that has shown great promise in other countries.



Helen F. Ladd is the Susan B. King Professor of Public Policy Studies and professor of economics at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. Most of her current research focuses on education policy. She is particularly interested in various aspects school accountability, education finance, teacher labor markets, and school choice. She has written numerous articles on charter schools and other forms of choice in North Carolina, self-governing schools and parental choice in New Zealand, market based reforms in urban school districts, voucher programs, school reform in post-Apartheid South Africa, and school finance in the Netherlands.

In addition, with colleagues at Duke University she has written extensively about school segregation, teacher labor markets, and teacher quality using longitudinal data in North Carolina. She has co-edited and coauthored many books. Among them are Holding Schools Accountable: Performance-Based Reform in Education (Brookings Institution, 1996),  The Handbook of Research in Education Finance and Policy (Routledge, 2008; second edition forthcoming, 2015) and books on school reform in New Zealand and South Africa.

Ladd was president of the Association for Public Policy and Management in 2011 and has been co-chair, since its founding in 2008, of the national campaign for a Broader, Bolder Approach to Education ( 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.

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.

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. Most recently, she spent 6 months as a visiting researcher at the University of Amsterdam examining the Netherlands’ long experience with parental choice, significant autonomy for individual schools and weighted student funding.

(On leave 2015-2016)