Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Data based decisions work badly with fraudulent data

One of the points that Joseph and I have been hammering away at for years now is that, as proposed, most of the proposed incentive and metric-based models of the education reform movement are dangerously vulnerable to gaming, data cooking, and out-and-out fraud.

Back in 2010, this position was very much on the fringe. Today, not so much.

From Marilou Johanek, columnist for the Toledo Blade (via Charles Pierce)

Former ODE school choice director David Hansen, the man in charge of charter school oversight, engaged in a fraudulent scheme to boost the evaluations of some charters. Mr. Hansen, whose wife worked as the governor’s chief of staff until she left to manage his presidential campaign, admitted scrubbing data on failing online and dropout recovery-charters to improve their standing in the state.

Some outraged state school board members charged Mr. Hansen with breaking the law and demanded an impartial investigation. Team Kasich quashed that notion and contained the political damage.

Then-state superintendent Richard Ross professed no prior knowledge of the fraud perpetrated on his watch by his subordinate to promote an administration mandate. Unexplained is why Mr. Ross forwarded Mr. Hansen’s falsified data to the U.S. Department of Education for funding, despite the controversy over his cooked books.

ODE’s discredited charter czar quietly resigned from the department, followed by the retirement of the superintendent months later. The department that had allowed the data scam to proceed in a calculated move for public dollars — without regard for educational accountability — vowed to enact internal reforms. No need for outside scrutiny.

Chagrined state lawmakers who were previously in no hurry to pass charter school reform, finally approved legislation to take the heat off Mr. Kasich. The changes will only be meaningful if they are implemented by the Kasich people running the ODE.

Public education advocates aren’t holding their breath for wholesale reform of the charter school industry in Ohio, which is fine with the Kasich administration. It pushed a potential political liability off the radar to let Mr. Kasich spin on the campaign trail without distraction.
And on a completely unrelated note.

A while back, I collected all of those 2010 education reform post in a Kindle single called Things I Saw at the Counter-Reformation. If you would like to see how the arguments hold up, check it out.


  1. I commend this piece to you as a follow-up to the post:


  2. Mark:

    This sort of thing came up in the recent controversy about the so-called power pose. It turns out that these papers had miscalculated test statistics as well as the usual garden of forking paths. Mark to market came with a failed replication. Response of the researchers in question was a mix of ignoring and attacking the criticism. I haven't seen a single criticism that they seriously addressed. Even the wrongly-calculated test statistics: they seem to just hope the problem will go away. I guess if you assume the conclusion, then problems with the data don't really matter.