Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A False Sense Of Precision

Education reformers like to say their reforms for schools are hard, scientific and data-driven.  These are precise metrics used for what is going on with students, teachers and schools, so when decisions are made to hold students back, to fire teachers or to close schools, the data can always be relied upon for accuracy and precision.

Aaron Pallas says as far as the school report cards go, this is nonsense:

Aaron Pallas, professor of sociology and education at Teachers College at Columbia University, said the methodology behind the city’s progress reports offer “a kind of false sense of precision.”
He singled out the peer index, which is used to compare schools that have similar demographics. The index takes into account economic need, students with disabilities, students who are black and Hispanic and English language learners.

Principals often complain about these groupings, claiming their schools are frequently compared to schools that are actually very different. Or to schools that are so similar that a slight fluctuation in one school’s test scores can lead to a big change in another school’s progress report.

How schools are grouped together for the methodology is a subjective decision made by somebody at Tweed. 

The same goes for how teachers are grouped together for comparisions along the Great Teacher Evaluation Bell Curve.

That's a decision made by somebody at the state level or at Tweed.

And yet, these guys sell this stuff as hard, data-driven science, as if there's no subjectivity to the exercise at all.

Same goes for deciding to use one year of test scores for the school report cards instead of three.

Or deciding that 85% of the report card will be made up solely of test scores.

Or basing 85% of the report card on tests like the Pineapple and the Hare - ones so badly written that schools ought to band together and sue the NYSED, Pearson and Tweed if they're on the closure list.

How can the hacks at Tweed or the NYSED claim with a straight face that these school report cards are precise and fair when the scores they're based on came from the infamously error-riddled Pearson tests.

No, there is nothing "objective," "scientific" or "precise" about these school report cards, just as there was nothing "objective," "scientific" or "precise" about last year's Teacher Data Reports that were published in the papers.

If the UFT were an actual union instead of a company union, it would be publicizing all the problems with this data and explaining why neither schools nor teachers should be held to account using flawed data from error-riddled tests.

But the UFT is too busy bragging about how it helped Cuomo get APPR in place, subjecting individual teachers to this test score nonsense that schools as institutions have been dealing with for years.

These data-driven education reforms give the public a false sense of precision over the policies and decisions made for schools and teachers.

Someday maybe the public will learn that.

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