Education by statistics

So many people in the business world are measured by numbers. Lawyers rack up billable hours, venture capitalists strive
for returns on investment and factory workers attack defects. And don’t overlook sales, the ultimate in rising or falling
based on one’s merits.

School districts, administrators and teachers have been judged on Indiana Statewide
Testing for Educational Progress scores for a number of years, but they’re about to be plunged deeper into seeing their
performances measured by statistics.

The Indiana Department of Education today rolled out a plan that gauges how
much students are learning by comparing individual students to peer students across the state. A student’s academic
achievement will be compared against other students in the state who scored at the exact same level on ISTEP+. School systems
then will be summarized as high-achieving/high-growth, high-achieving/low-growth, low-achieving/high-growth, and low-achieving/low-growth.
And parents will know how much their child is improving compared to their peers.

The department hopes a more detailed
analysis will better reveal what works and what doesn’t. And don’t forget that the department wants teacher salaries
based partly on test scores.

Here’s a related question. How will private outfits like Park Tudor School,
Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School and Heritage Christian School respond as public schools get more serious
about improvement?

It’s easy to dismiss private school boasts about high tests scores because
the students have motivated parents. What’s difficult to determine is how much private schools elevate
academics of already high-performing students.

Parents who like the more detailed statistics
coming out of public education might start asking those kinds of questions of private schools.

Should private schools
adopt the same system, or maybe a similar one? If they don’t, will they fall behind? Remember that
Detroit car companies ruled the nation’s highways until they rejected Edwards Deming’s statistical
measures and he took the ideas to a manufacturing backwater called Japan.

Might public schools improve so much
that they give private schools a run for their money?

Your thoughts?

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