They each wanted to improve education; together, they ruined it

If you have any interest in using data to improve public services like education or healthcare, whether enthusiastic or sceptical, read this article. The story is a familiar one to me but rarely sees the public eye in such careful detail as it does here. The road to hell, as you know, is paved with dashboards, performance indicators and league tables.

Righton Johnson, a lawyer with Balch & Bingham who sat in on interviews, told me that it became clear that most teachers thought they were committing a victimless crime. “They didn’t see the value in the test, so they didn’t see that they were devaluing the kids by cheating,” she said. Unlike recent cheating scandals at Harvard and at Stuyvesant High School, where privileged students were concerned with their own advancement, those who cheated at Parks were never convinced of the importance of the tests; they viewed the cheating as a door they had to pass through in order to focus on issues that seemed more relevant to their students’ lives.

Lewis said, “I know that sometimes when you’re in the fight, and you’re swinging, you want to win so badly that you don’t recognize where your blows land.”

There have been similar stories in the UK news recently, but you can get it all from Parks, so I suggest just reading this and carrying those cautionary ideas around with you.


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