Bunkum

Spread the love

From http://nepc.colorado.edu/newsletter/2011/02/us-department-education-big-winner-2010-bunkum-awards:

“The Bunkum Awards each year acknowledge reports on education issues from think tanks and other sources that represent the worst of the worst when it comes to research quality. Past winners have been lauded for their shoddy methods, evidentiary cherry-picking, and tendentious reasoning.”

I suggest reading all the bunkum awards, but here is one of my favorites:

The ‘Plural of Anecdote is Not Data’ Award. Our first award went to the Reason Foundation for its report Fix the City Schools arguing for “portfolio” school districts and citing improvements in student achievement in New Orleans in the post-Katrina era. The report relied overwhelmingly on attention-grabbing anecdotes yet ignored reasons unrelated to the portfolio approach – such as the massive exodus of low-income children from the city, plus a significant increase in resources – that could explain those improvements.

That’s the problem with so much educational research. People with an agenda pick the “facts” that support their position. They ignore facts that don’t. Worst of all, I suspect they sometimes don’t even recognize that those counterexamples matter.

I have been told repeatedly in the past few years that research supports not penalizing students for turning in late papers. They should be allowed to turn in their homework pretty much any time before the end of the grading period, because then they will at least do the work. That research points out that this no-late-penalty system results in students doing better in school.

Help! Of course student grades improved when we let them turn in a bunch of junk at the end, pushing their overall average up. But how much more do they know than before? Especially since a great many of them just borrow friends corrected papers and copy the work, I suspect they learn little or nothing much of the time. The research says we kept them from giving up. Well, we did that too. But what did we really teach?

Eduhonesty: I think we taught students that you can behave irresponsibly, even dishonestly, and the world will let you get away with it. The world may even reward you. That’s what we taught. I’ll be interested to see how that approach works out in the work world. I expect a number of these kids to be stunned when they are told to clean out their desks. I can just hear them stuttering, “But I was going to turn it in next week!” as they are escorted off the premises of their former jobs.