How Measurement Fails Doctors and Teachers: NY Times Op-ed

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In case you missed it, click here for the full op-ed “How Measurement Fails Doctors and Teachers” piece published in The New York Times on Saturday.

It’s well worth the read, especially given the comparisons that author, Robert M. Wachter – MD, Professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco – makes between medicine and education, in terms of how measurement systems in many ways have worked to hurt, not help improve, both professions.

1 thought on “How Measurement Fails Doctors and Teachers: NY Times Op-ed

  1. Thanks for giving attention to this important commentary. The checklists for M.D.s were recently increased to the point of absurdity, about 137,000 codes, with each affecting the insurance-reimbursed care that you may receive.

    I am reminded of the Gates Foundation multifaceted efforts to gather data, and well beyond the squelched InBloom project.

    Still alive and well are the Teacher Student Data Link (TSDL), one facet of a data gathering campaign funded at $390,493,545 between 2005 and mid-May 2011 by the Gates Foundation. This campaign links teacher and student data for eight purposes: 1. Determine which teachers help students become college-ready and successful, 2. Determine characteristics of effective educators, 3. Identify programs that prepare highly qualified and effective teachers, 4. Assess the value of non-traditional teacher preparation programs, 5. Evaluate professional development programs, 6. Determine variables that help or hinder student learning, 7. Plan effective assistance for teachers early in their career, and 8. Inform policy makers of best value practices, including compensation. See

    The TSDL system is intended to ensure that all courses are based on standards, and that all responsibilities for learning are assigned to one or more “teachers of record” in charge of a student or class. A teacher of record has a unique identifier (think barcode) for an entire career in teaching. A record is generated whenever a teacher of record has some specified proportion of responsibility for “a student’s learning activities” identified by the performance measures for a particular standard, subject, and grade level.

    In addition to the eight purposes noted above, the TSDL system aims to have ”period-by-period tracking of teachers and students every day; including tests, quizzes, projects, homework, classroom participation, or other forms of day-to-day assessments and progress measures”—a level of accountability (I call it surveillance) that is said to be comparable to business practices (TSDL, 2011, “Key Components”). The system will keep current and longitudinal data on teachers and individual students, schools, districts, states, and educators ranging from school principals to higher education faculty. The aim is to determine the “best value” investments in education and monitor outcomes, taking into account as many demographic factors as possible, including health records for preschoolers.

    This Gates-funded campaign added resources to USDE’s Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) Grant Program, authorized under Title II, ‘‘Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 H. R. 3801.” The first grants were made in 2005, the same year that the Gates’ Foundation started the parallel Data Quality Campaign. Since 2006, the U.S. Department of Education has invested over $700 million in the SLDS Grant Program enabling more than forty states to create standardized longitudinal data systems. These are intended to “efficiently and accurately manage, analyze, and use education data, including individual student records” so that districts, schools, and teachers “can make data-driven decisions to improve student learning, as well as facilitate research to increase student achievement and close achievement gaps”

    The latest Gates funded project is an Inspectorate for teacher preparation programs. The system has been incubated by the National Center for Teacher Quality, infamous for rating teacher preparation programs based on wrong and missing information and publishing the results in US News and World Report.

    The relatively new Inspectorate, called “Teacher Prep Inspection U.S. (TPI-US) is a non-profit based in Florida led by Dr. Edward Crowe, co-founder of Teacher Prep Analytics (TPA) an LLC with a long list of clients. In 2013, Dr. Crowe managed the first inspection process for elementary education teacher preparation at Southern Methodist University, the University of Houston in Texas, New Mexico State University, and Eastern New Mexico University. In 2015, inspections were conducted in Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, and North Carolina.

    In addition to the Inspectorate, Gates is funding four Teacher Transformation Centers.” Funds are going to networks, including Relay Graduate School of Education, online programs, an expansion of data gathering for all teacher preparation programs in Massachusetts among others.

    The long term aim of this recent Gates/NCTQ initiative is rationalized as if these teacher prep and inspection projects are comparable to reforms in medical education spurred by the 1910 Flexner Report on medical education. The Flexner Report is credited with eliminating proprietary schools for medical training. This comparison claim from teacher prep and inspection is really absurd, because the recent grants and Inspectorate are intended to make teaching more like a trade school, with a narrow range of “high-leverage” teaching strategies, on-the-job training, and test scores the main indicator of effectiveness, along with employer and other customer service ratings. For example one grant went to Relay Graduate School of Education, likely to be familiar to readers of this blog. See page 10 and current NCTQ rating criteria at

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