I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Here's My Opinion, But Don't Take It Seriously

This seems to be the Center for American Progress's attitude on a new study they did comparing "efficiency" district to district.

They even made a fancy interactive map so you can see how your district compares to your neighbors. Great - except...
Our measures are far from perfect, and individual district evaluations
should be interpreted with caution.
Uh, then why the hell did you make the comparisons in the first place?

Some other gems:
Our nation’s school system has for too long failed to ensure that education funding
consistently promotes strong student achievement. After adjusting for inflation, education
spending per student has nearly tripled over the past four decades.
Typically, state school finance systems have not kept up with the true increased costs of maintaining teacher quality, increased outcome demands or changing student demography. Nor have states sufficiently targeted resources to districts facing the highest costs of achieving desired outcomes. Seewww.schoolfundingfairness.org. And many states, with significantly changing demography including Arizona, California and Colorado have merely maintained or even cut current spending levels for decades (despite what would be increased costs of even maintaining current outcome levels).
Evaluating education spending solely on the basis of changes in the price of a loaf of bread and/or gallon of gasoline is, well, silly.
And the there's this:
When successful businesses want to improve performance and boost
efficiencies, they focus on creating the conditions for organizational
change. They use data to identify problem areas, create short and
long-term goals, and engage their employees to sustain transformations
and nurture further innovation. Such approaches have long
worked for the private sector, and there’s clear evidence that the techniques
can help drive better performance in large, public organizations as well.
Man, I hate that. Say it with me, wontcha? Schools are not businesses. If they were, we'd fire the kids who don't learn as well as we'd like.
Students from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to be enrolled
in highly inefficient districts. Students who participated in subsidized lunch
programs were 12 percentage points more likely to be enrolled in the nation’s
least-productive districts, even after making allowances for the higher cost of
educating lower-income students.
Gosh, what an incredible coincidence. Couldn't be maybe you're underestimating the costs, could it? Nah...

I really shouldn't lay into this too hard - I've only just started on it, and my technical knowledge is merely that of a somewhat-on-top-of-things amateur. Bruce Baker has had plenty to say on CAP's reports before - maybe he'll have a few words to say on this.

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