Something unsavory is underway at the Department of Education and in the world of preschool zealotry. They seem to be merging—and in so doing, they risk the integrity of our education-data system.
The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, my longtime mentor, was renowned for declaring (among other things), “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.”
Well, in the matter of preschool statistics, it appears you’re not going to be able to tell the difference.
Worse, you’re going to begin to wonder whether you can trust the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to obtain its data from impartial sources of facts rather than hotbeds of passionate advocacy.
This was an issue a dozen years back when economist Michael Podgursky (and others) pointed out that NCES was getting its teacher-salary data from the unions—and publishing those numbers as reliable facts, which they may or may not have been. (Podgursky noted, for example, that they certainly didn’t take account of many noncash benefits that teachers also derive from their employment, such as shorter work years.)
NCES has since gathered its own data on teacher compensation (or relied on trustworthy government agencies, such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics), as it should.
But in the preschool realm, NCES has done something worse than it did with the salary data. It has not only outsourced the number gathering to a prominent interest group in the field but also allowed that interest group to add its own...