Given Climate Data Revelations -Who Is Going To Believe Education Data?
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Steven Goddard has been watching the climate temperature data (that’s actual data from actual sensors) and shaking his head in wonder over the “consensus” the scientific community and the public have reached that the earth is warming. The raw data collected by the National Climate Data Center’s (NCDC) Historical Climate Network shows that there has actually been a cooling trend since since the turn of the last century. NCDC refers to the collection points for this data as “1,221 high-quality stations from the U.S. Cooperative Observing Network within the 48 contiguous United States.” To reassure us that this data is credible they go on to describe how those stations were chosen.
“The stations were chosen using a number of criteria including length of period of record, percent missing data, number of station moves and other station changes that may affect the data homogeneity, and spatial coverage. Included with the data set are metadata files that contain station history information about station moves, instrumentation, observing times, and elevation.”
What we have then is a highly touted database of data points from all over the country that should give us a clear picture of what is happening to our climate. From this data, our best and our brightest scientific experts are supposed to be recommending policy to respond to what the data is telling us. But instead of saying “Hey we seem to be in this cooling trend and might want to be developing our natural gas stores to provide for more winter heating,” they are saying, “Quick shut down every means of warming the humans or letting them get around because the planet is warming at an alarming and entirely predictable rate.”
Goddard graphed the actual temperature data which showed a cooling trend since the last century. When looking at specific points, like the supposed fact that last September was the hottest ever on record, Goddard found that actual observations did not line up with what NOAA was reporting. Satellite data showed it was an utterly average September in 2013. What he discovered was that, when the actual data did not match the narrative or end goal, data was substituted to support the contention that the earth was warming.
I thought that having a large database of data points was supposed to make policy-making much better. That’s what they keep telling us to justify why we need to be collecting all this data on students from birth through to the workforce. The data is going to tell us which degree programs to be focusing on, which skill sets to teach and how to customize education programs for every single child. It is going to give so much critical information about the students to teachers so they won’t have to be operating in the dark any longer. Student growth and achievement will be totally predictable according to our models because we will have so much data to base those models on.
Yeah right. It isn’t working for the climate. No reasonable person expects it to work for education.
In both fields there are other agendas at work. The data does not precede the policy, it is cherry picked to justify the policy. In climate change, or whatever the polling data say it should be called right now, the goal is to level the playing field globally. This will be accomplished by restricting the ability of 1st world country’s to continue their advancement with unfettered access to energy, and limiting the advancement of third world countries so that they do not become the consumers that first world countries currently are. The data will be used to curtail or promote whatever business the power brokers decide should be altered. According to Goddard, if the data doesn’t exist to support the end goal, data will be created. In the climate field, actual temperature data from the observation stations was discarded in favor of data from the models that “proved the existence of rising global temperatures.” In education, the data that proves, oh say, that charter schools are no better than public schools, will be mysteriously dropped from the official reports.
The goal in education is for government, run by the corporate world, to pick and choose the business winners and then structure the entire education system to serve those selected winners. And the first winners chosen will be the data collection companies followed by the educational suppliers who, often, are one in the same. CREDO, Center for Research Education Outcomes, published a National Charter School Study in 2013. They collected data from hundreds of charter schools across the country and concluded that charter schools perform slightly better than public schools.
Even if concerns over the study’s analytic methods are set side, however, Maul and McClelland point out that the study itself shows only a tiny real impact on the part of charter schools: “less than one hundredth of one percent of the variation in test performance is explainable by charter school enrollment,” they write. Specifically, students in charter schools were estimated to score approximately 0.01 standard deviations higher on reading tests and 0.005 standard deviations lower on math tests than their peers in traditional public schools.
With a very large sample size, nearly any effect will be statistically significant,” the reviewers conclude, “but in practical terms these effects are so small as to be regarded, without hyperbole, as trivial.
The reason CREDO was able to claim that charter schools do better than traditional schools was based in large part because of the public schools they used for comparison. Not unlike the climate scientists who used data from collection stations situated on blacktop, near building exhaust vents and some which had not been calibrated, the schools CREDO compared charters to are Recovery School District schools, which are known to be, collectively, the worst district in Louisiana. Their student population contains a lot of students that the charter schools rejected. Despite a less than ideal student population, many of the charters did no better than the worst schools in the state, and many did even worse than the average of the worst district.
Hardly a resounding endorsement. Yet this does not stop zealous promoters of charter schools from touting their absolute superiority over public schools and pushing for a national privatization of education. Even CREDO supports this policy. Why? Not because the data support it but because it will benefit them in the end. CREDO runs a charter school leadership institute in partnership with National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, and the Colorado League of Charter Schools. Their mission is to identify and develop “best practices in the measurement of student and school performance, the management of performance data, and the use of performance measures to increase school and student accountability.” All of this done with money supplied by the public, who is paying for public schools, through the US Department of Education’s Charter School Program.
Call me a pessimist, but is does not appear that data collected by the State Longitudinal Data Systems will clarify the fuzzy picture of education any better than the data used by CREDO to clarify the picture of charter schools. Teachers almost uniformly tell me that standardized tests and reports from on-line education apps do not tell them anything about their students that they do not already know. The people who don’t know that data, the companies collecting it, are the ones who will benefit by having it. And when it doesn’t support the popular narrative about education; choice, charters, digital learning or whatever, data will be discarded or created by models to support the narrative. The public should have no more confidence in the education models than they do in the climate models. Our legislators should know this before they go setting policy based on any data handed them.
The greatest sin in all of this is that the potential downside for collecting all that data on students (identity theft, rigid career tracking, curriculum designed to homogenize the data points) does not outweigh any of the upside to collecting it. Yet onward we push for data collection.