Who's Responsible For Misusing Washington DC's Test Scores?
Recently, Matthew Chingos and Kristin Blagg of the Urban Institute published a blog post about the rise in national test scores for schools in Washington, DC. The post has been republished elsewhere and, consequently, cited frequently in the edu-bloggosphere and press.
I have four specific objections to their post, which I'll lay out below (from least to most technical). But let me start by saying I don't think Chingos or Blagg are hacks; far from it. I want to engage on what they wrote because I think it's important and I think they are serious. My tweeting yesterday could easily be interpreted as my saying otherwise, and for that, I apologize.
We now live in an atmosphere where, far too often, education research is being willfully misrepresented by people with ideological, personal, or other agendas. As I've said many times here, I don't pretend that I don't have a point of view. But I also work hard to keep the evidence I cite in proper context.
Others, like Michelle Rhee and Jonathan Chait, have no such qualms. It is, therefore, far past time for public intellectuals and researchers to start asking themselves what responsibilities they bear for the willful misuse of their work. For example...
Objection #1: The framing of the research. I realize this was just a blog post, and that the standards of a peer-reviewed article don't apply here. But I also understand that Urban is an influential think tank with an extensive communications shop, so anything they put out is going to get traction. Which I why I have a problem with starting the post with this paragraph:
Student performance in the nation’s capital has increased so dramatically that it has attracted significant attention and prompted many to ask whether gentrification, rather than an improvement in school quality, is behind the higher scores. Our new analysis shows that demographic change explains some, but by no means all, of the increase in scores.Chingos and Blagg have got two big, big assumptions laid out right at the top of their post - See more at: Jersey Jazzman: Who's Responsible For Misusing Washington DC's Test Scores?: