If you like data—especially if you’re in the “data-driven-decision-making-can-solve-everything!” camp—this story from the NYT Metropolitan section is definitely worth a read. Actually, if you’re worried about the pronounced use of data in education—especially if you’re in the “we’re-turning-our-kids-into-widgets!” camp—you probably want to read it, too. The first few paragraphs about identifying oil-dumping scofflaws pretty much summarize the piece: If we collect enough data and analyze it the right way, heavens, the problems we can solve. Lots of people nowadays talk about using interim assessment data to improve instruction, change class schedules, and so on. This article, though, makes me wonder if that’s just the tiniest sliver of what’s possible.
Could we identify the ideal address for that new charter’s building? Could we accurately predict state legislators’ voting behavior on tenure reform proposals? Could we identify the 100 conditions likeliest to prepare third graders for success on AP exams 10 years later?
Implicit in all of these questions is the “should” element. Just because we might be able to do something doesn’t mean we ought to. This brand of worry, however, barely registers in the article. And it might barely register among edu-technocrats. But as you know, I hand-wring about such things.