Through Twitter, I met an amazing blogger named Larry Ferlazzo. When I traveled to Sacramento earlier this year, I met the real Larry Ferlazzo. Larry is a teacher who makes amazing lists of everything you need to know. He also scours the Internet for everything interesting. I constantly learn from Larry. Once again, he hit the jackpot with this post.
As we know, many of our economists treat test scores as the best and sole measure of learning. They spend inordinate amounts of time in pursuit of the secret of raising test scores, and if they find it, they think they have struck gold.
So the name of their game is to find the right incentive that will cause teachers to teach harder and students to try harder to get those scores up.
They have repeatedly tried bonuses for both teachers and students, but that hasn’t worked.
So now they have a new idea that is beyond disgusting. It is called “loss aversion.”
What that means is that you give students or teachers a reward in advance, and if they don’t raise their scores, you take it away. You make them so fearful that they will lose the reward that they will work harder to raise their scores.
Now, to begin with, there are many reasons why test scores are not the best measure of good education.
But what about the means of inducing the results?
There is something positively disgusting about this approach to human behavior.
As Larry Ferlazzo says, citing the behavioral economist Dan Ariely, teachers and students are not rats in a cage.
There may be even better ways to raise test scores. What if you said to students, “get a higher score on this test, or we will cut off your fingers.” That might raise scores. Or, “get a higher score or you’ll never see your parents again.” Or, “get a higher score or the dean will put your eyes out.”
Once you get into behavior modification, there is no limit to the threats and punishments that can be devised.
But let’s call it what it is: Loathsome. Inhumane. Unethical. Antithetical to the values of a democratic society. Antithetical to decency.
Have these economists no shame?