Julia Sass Rubin here analyzes “school report cards” in New Jersey.

This analysis was published last year but is as valid now as it was last May.

Rubin writes:

“Comparing schools to those with similar demographics is a good idea that highlights that students’ personal characteristics play a bigger role in determining their academic outcomes than anything that happens to them in-school. And what could be bad about giving parents and educators more information?

“Unfortunately, rather than providing useful data, the new reports undercut New Jersey’s excellent public schools. The reports also create incentives for districts to manage to the new standards through policies that produce higher rankings but may not meet students’ needs.

“There are four types of problems with the new school reports: artificially created competition, poorly designed comparison groups, arbitrary category definitions, and inaccurate data.”

She then describes the errors inherent in each of these measures. They are as misleading as the A-F report cards, which are often based on the same metrics.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting sick of the unending efforts to find a scale that can quantify children, teachers, schools. I much prefer a complex qualitative report that helps me understands needs and strengths and that leads to improvement, not punishments.

Surly all those statisticians can find something useful to do in industry or agriculture or public health. Big Data has its limits. The more we learn about how it distorts values and degrades education as it should be, the less it is needed to measure children and the quality of learning.