Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Headline: Ambiguity Vanquished!

Closely related to the Science News Cycle is the policy research cycle. Consider this headline:

Study: Public Schools Just As

Good as Private Schools

Wow, thanks Research! Way to smack down all those voucher waving moonbats! Oh, wait it only studied math skills? Only through 5th grade? And only over several years? How many is several exactly? 5? 3? Well, we know it's valid, right, because it's fully corroborated by "other, yet-unpublished studies of the same data, which produced similar findings".

Bluuhhh. Of the small number of people who actually order a copy of this study, precisely 11 will have the statistical acumen to judge the researchers' techniques of "controlling for demographic differences". For that matter, what was the testing standard? People complain about "teaching to the test", here the danger is testing to what's been taught. The best private schools in the world would fare poorly if the test looks just like the public school's curriculum.

But none of that's worth blunting such a beautiful headline.

1 comment:

Shane said...

I've disagreed with you before on the relative value of public versus private schools - both in this space and in person.

But I think that school choice is important. I had the luxury of school choice, and I went to one of the best public high schools in my state. I also went to one of the best public universities in the country. In both cases the schools were specifically chosen for their quality - my parents moved (and paid the associated price premium for owning real estate zoned to that high school), and obviously there is student choice in university selection.

To deny parents of lesser means than my parents the ability to choose quality schools will continue to curse all but the most ambitious children from poor neighborhoods to a lifetime of missed opportunities and social disadvantage. It's an injustice that goes beyond just "life isn't fair." And while I'm somewhat lukewarm about voucher plans, I wholeheartedly agree with their intended purpose.