Look for the story behind the numbers, not the numbers alone
March 10, 2011 1 Comment
This time I’ll let the journalists get away with their fondness for reporting the compelling individual story, since the single counterexample is the whole point here.
High-stakes testing was bad enough. But high-stakes evaluating and hiring? This is a great example of the dangers of applying quantitative metrics inappropriately. While value-added modeling may be able to capture properties of the aggregate, it makes occasional errors at the level of the individual. Just one error (whether it’s a factual or exaggerated case, it still illustrates the point) demonstrates the ethical and managerial problems in firing the wrong person based on aggregated data.
Nor do I understand the political eagerness to fire teachers so readily. I’m not convinced that teachers are such an abundant resource that we can afford to burn through them so callously. With teacher shortages in multiple areas and a national teacher attrition rate of 15-20%, we would do better to keep, train, and support the teachers we already have, rather than toss them out and discourage new recruits from joining an increasingly unfriendly profession.
While I agree that it’s important to judge teaching by its merits rather than just the years spent, we need to formulate those measurements carefully. Test scores alone give a misleading illusion of greater precision than they actually have and