Data and More Data

Deborah Meier is currently senior scholar at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education She has spent more than four decades working in public education as a teacher, principal, writer, advocate, and ranks among the most acclaimed leaders of the school reform movement in the U.S.  She is the author of many books and articles, including The Power of Their Ideas, Lessons to America from a Small School in Harlem, and In Schools we Trust. She is an outspoken critic of state-mandated curriculum and high stakes standardized testing and has written extensively on their unreliability and class/race biases.   She is on the board of the Coalition of Essential Schools, FairTest, Save Our Schools, Center for Collaborative Education and the Association for Union Democracy. She is also on the editorial board of The Nation, The Harvard Education Letter, and Dissent magazines.


Data and More Data

In the dispute over the revision of NCLB the argument has been made –sometimes by civil rights advocates–that if we don’t test annually we won’t be able to compare. But, what use are such comparison? Let us look at other areas where we do such comparison’s.


Has our knowledge about the increasing differences in income led to actions to close that gap? Hmm, seems the rich are still getting richer, while the poor get poorer.  Is evidence that we spend more money on the education of those at the top than we do on those at the bottom changed how we allocate educational resources? Is health care data that demonstrates that the poor are less well served than the rich changed health care, his it created more general or family practitioners serving poor neighborhoods, for example? Not at all.

What is the “evidence” that more testing, and more comparing of data on the basis of race, class or language will do for schooling what it has not done for other institutional decisions? When it comes to how we spend our resources, data has had remarkably little impact—at least since we ended the short-lived and underfunded “war on poverty.” The data sometimes even confirms racism: “See, ‘they’ just aren’t….smart, hard working, biologically fit.”

In fact, we are spending more money on confirming the data year after year than we do on changing the circumstances that lead to the data.

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