Tuesday, November 24, 2020

CURMUDGUCATION: The False God Data Fails Again

CURMUDGUCATION: The False God Data Fails Again
The False God Data Fails Again

The dream of the Cult of Data is that for any issue, we simply design an instrument for collecting the data, analyze the Data, and select a solution suggested by the Data. Phrases like "data driven" or "data informed" are used to express the assumption that decisions backed by Data are inherently smarter, better, stronger, and wiser than Those Other Kinds of decisions. 

But what if they aren't? What if Data doesn't actually solve anythung?

I've made this point before while writing about the NAEP, the gold standard, America's report card, the test that is supposed to give us data that is clear and clean and objective and allows us to make wise decisions. Except that it doesn't. The Data come out, the arguments follow, and the hard data from the NAEP test settles exactly nothing.

Now here we go again. 

Matt Barnum, my personal favorite Chalkbeat reporter, took a look at a recent gathering of education experts who wanted to look at a simple question- are the gaps in test scores between the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy closing? Seems straightforward, and yet...

No one could answer the question. Or, more precisely, no one could agree on the answer. One researcher claimed the gap was growing, another said it was shrinking, and a third argued that it hadn’t changed much in decades.

It depends. It depends on which Data you look at, which data you trust, which data represents what you think it represents. And as Barnum points out, this is a particularly remarkable question to be stumped by, because the test score gap (aka "the CONTINUE READING: CURMUDGUCATION: The False God Data Fails Again