Wednesday, 24 February 2010

An Average Dismissal? rant about education and bad statistics

It was on my I google news, I had to read it...
"(CNN) -- A school board in Rhode Island has voted to fire all teachers at a struggling high school, a dramatic and controversial plan aimed at shoring up education in a poverty-ridden school district.
On Tuesday night, the board approved the plan by Frances Gallo, superintendent at Central Falls School District, to discharge 88 teachers at Central Falls High School."

ALL the teachers, NOT A SINGLE ONE that was capable...Did they fire the principal that hired and managed 88 incompetent teachers? (bet they didn't)...


"The firings come over the district's concern that teachers refused to spend more time with students to improve test scores." AHA, Was the superintendent ready to PAY them to spend additional time... time outside their contracted 5, 6 or 7 hours a day of classroom instruction??? (oh, they didn't say anything about that.)... Try to imagine another profession where that kind of demand would even be suggested... Hmm, are all the bankers who got us into this economic mess actually putting in extra hours at lower pay to help us get out...(pssst.. the correct answer is No.)..

But a teachers' union spokesman called the firings "drastic."

As my students would say....DUH!!!

And now the part I love, they use statistics.... (ummm poorly)...
"The spokesman also cited a 21 percent rise in reading scores and a 3 percent hike in math scores in two years."
Ok, What does that mean? What scores went up 21%.. Try to guess. Does that mean the median national percentile for the school went up by 21 percentile points ? Were they at the 20th percentile and now they are at the 24th (a 21% increase) or did they perhaps go from the 20th percentile to the 41st percentile (an increase of 21 percentile points).. Does it mean that EVERY kid in the school improved 21% over his previous (raw score? natl percentile score ?) WHAT DID THAT MEAN???

And of course, the article concludes with a stunning judgment of the school and the community...."Central Falls is one of the lowest-performing schools in Rhode Island." (Wow, at some schools they probably just took the teachers out and shot them...)

The statistics students in my class have already learned to ask..."Measured HOW?" Do they have the smallest number of people in the theater program? (see, that is a pun on "lowest performing"... rim shot please.... and it might be the truth.. we really don't know)

I have no idea how good, or bad the teachers in Central Falls are, but I am willing to wage heavy odds that they almost certainly are not the 88 worst teachers in Rhode Island. In fact (no elementary or middle school teachers were dismissed???) they may not be the 88 worst teachers in Central Falls... Wait one more wager... I be the superintendent is about to become much more familiar with the ins and outs of class action law suits...
and amazingly, there will be lots of people lined up to interview to work there next year... Eddie Izzard does a nice routine on the Anglican church in which the punch line is "Death or cake?" and in this economy, there will be people lined up to say.. "Death, please."...And now Mr. Ballew has left the soap speaker...
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