Saturday, November 6, 2010

NJCSA attacks the messenger

Another heads up from Tom Hoffman at Tuttle SVC--he's
the John Stewart of the education news world....

I like numbers. A lot.

I like numbers enough to have developed a healthy relationship with them. No one night stands. No extraordinary demands. We respect each other, stay open, and work to grasp each other's nuances.

I have long maintained a monogamous relationship with the decimal system. (OK, I once philandered with hexadecimals, and I toyed with binary when I was still a lad, but I've matured.)

I have been accused of seeing numbers better than the average bear. I maintain that most humans (if not bears) can see numbers as well as I can once they get past the torrid relationships from back in high school.

Data, on the other hand, are like spam--somewhere along the line numbers get processed.

Data is wonderful if you have a healthy relationship with numbers, and refuse to abuse them, no matter what glory or riches may tempt you.

If you love numbers, run over to Bruce Baker's School Finance 101 blog.


Dr. Baker loves numbers, too. He makes them friendly. He's also very, very smart. He could take data and mash it to his whims.

But he doesn't.

Dr. Baker plays with numbers with respect; he also respects his audience. He doesn't treat his readers as dummies, yet takes time to clearly explain his reasoning.

The New Jersey Charter Schools Association got upset with Dr. Baker's blog recently. His offense? He ran some numbers, and drew some conclusions:

[E]ven if we found that these schools produced greater gains for their students than similar students would have achieved in the traditional public schools, we could not sort out whether that effect came from school quality differences or from peer group differences (which doesn’t matter from the parent perspective, but does from the policy perspective).

Through a twisted piece of logic, the NJCSA insinuated that Dr. Baker gets money for shilling against charter schools.
Rutgers University Professor Bruce Baker is closely aligned with teachers unions, which have been vocal opponents of charter schools and have a vested financial interest in their ultimate failure.

I love teaching.
I might work in a charter school some day; I've even dreamed of establishing one (the Margaret Donaldson School for Children--you heard it here first). I hope that the schools represented by the NJCSA have more respect for numbers and for truth than the shows NJCSA in its tirade.

The CEO Carlos PĂ©rez flew in from Chicago to take over the reins here in Jersey back in June. He comes from the same town that produced Arne, a man with a flimsy relationship with truth data.

(See how the game is played?)

The comic is, of course, from Toothpaste For Dinner.

1 comment:

John Spencer said...

I'm often amazed that the people who claim to be "data-driven" (I'd prefer data-informed) often twist data in a way that is a disgrace to all things numerical. I have a hunch NJCSA might fit that category.