If you study software engineering management, you learned about the importance of measuring different quantities to asses the quality of the software being produced. For instance, we measure things like unit test coverage, coupling, cohesion and cyclomatic complexity. In fact, just today I had to add unit tests to some code in order to achieve over 90% test coverage. These unit tests ensure that the code will remain functional as more changes are introduced by other engineers.
There is a need for metrics in any enterprise in which the producers are trying to achieve a quality outcome for the customers. Education is no different. But sometimes educational bureaucrats and teacher unions block the collection of measurements so that no teacher or educrat will be singled out for lowering the quality of education being provided to the students.
Consider this story from City Journal (The Manhattan Institute). (H/T ECM)
Data analysis is far from perfect, and no one argues that it should be used in isolation to make employment decisions. But modern techniques can help us distinguish between teachers whose students excel and teachers whose students languish or fail. There’s just one problem with the data revolution: it doesn’t work without data. States must develop data sets that track the individual performance of students over time and match those students to their teachers.
Unfortunately, New York has deliberately refused to take that step. The state already has a sophisticated system for tracking student progress, but it doesn’t allow this statewide data set to match students to their teachers. No technical or administrative factors prevent the state from doing so. Only political obstacles stand in the way. The premise underlying the policies favored by the teachers’ unions, which govern so much of the relationship between public schools and teachers, is that all teachers are uniformly effective. Once we can objectively distinguish between effective and ineffective teachers, the system of uncritically granted tenure, a single salary schedule based on experience and credentials, and school placements based on seniority become untenable. The unions don’t want information about their members’ effectiveness to be available, let alone put to practical use, and thus far they’ve successfully blocked New York State’s use of such data.
Along with its refusal to improve its data system, the state has kept cities from adopting reforms. When New York City hinted that it would use its own data system to evaluate teachers based on student test scores, the state legislature passed a law banning the practice. Fortunately, that law is set to expire next year and may never actually be enforced, thanks to the city’s new reading of it, which frees city officials to use test scores for tenure decisions this year. Still, the legislature’s actions illustrate its opposition to using data in any way that would identify ineffective teachers.
This lack of concern for the well-being of the children reminds me of all the spending that Obama is doing. That spending will have to be paid back by generations yet unborn, just as the teachers sacrifice the children’s interests for their own job security. And the worst part is that the children vote for the teachers unions and the government spending – what else could they do after coming through the public school system?
By the way, for those of you who are old-fashioned, like me, you may be interested in some films showed to school children growing up in the 1950s in order to develop their moral character! Boy, that sure was a different world than today.