Sunday, March 19, 2017

Are “Big Data” and “metrics” the new religion in education reform? | Eclectablog

Are “Big Data” and “metrics” the new religion in education reform? | Eclectablog:

Are “Big Data” and “metrics” the new religion in education reform?

Graphic credit: Gerd Leonhard

As anyone watching the corporate education reform movement can attest to, Big Data and metrics have become the coin of the realm to the reform community. Let any conversation between reformers and defenders of public education go on long enough and the reformer will eventually blurt out the magic words: “But…accountability!”

This worldview seems informed by the belief that any problem, no matter how complex or complicated, can be solved by crunching enough numbers. The problem is that when dealing with actual, living human beings, numbers don’t always–or ever–mean what we think they mean.
In honor of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, let’s look at an example from the world of sports. Let’s say we have two hypothetical college hoops teams, the “Reformers” and the “Defenders,” and both teams finish the season with identical records of 20-15. Based on their numerical records, the teams are equal, right?
Not quite. Because the Reformers play in the Big Corporate Conference, or BCC, which has been, historically, one of the most competitive in the country, while the Defenders compete in the Ivory Tower League, or ITL–an organization of universities that strongly values academics, teaching, and scholarship, and sees participation in athletics as just one part of their institutional mission (I know, I know–this kind of conference would never exist in real life–let me dream!). As a result, each of the Reformers‘ victories are given more relative weight, or value, in the complex statistical formula used by the national rankings experts, while the Defenders‘ victories are given less “credit”. So, even though both teams finished the regular season with the same record, the Reformers were ranked in the top 25 and awarded a 6 seed, while the Defenders finished the season unranked and missed the tournament. Sounds fair, right?
Well, not so fast my friend!

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