Monday, October 10, 2011

Testing teachers

It has been a while since we talked about education reform but Arnold Kling has a great perspective:

Simple formulas can be “gamed.” That is, employees learn to achieve the objectives in the formula while failing to work toward the longer-term goals of the firm. On Wall Street, we have seen how bonus formulas proved dysfunctional. The older partnership form of organization appears to have provided better incentives.

A government-run system of teacher compensation, based on test scores, would in some ways be the worst of all worlds. It would create incentives for teachers to “game” the system. It would give too much weight to a noisy indicator of performance. As a result, it would do little or nothing to improve accountability or to reward better teachers.

This classic insight is shown in this dilbert comic.

Are we sure that test score based measures are the way to go? Most information technology jobs have the same sort of issues, often solved by comparative rankings and broad evaluations. Even worse, a bad metric drives out the good (meaning it could actually be counter-productive).

The whole post is worth reading.

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