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The Magical Misuse of a Math Formula

The administration for the Dallas schools just approved a new incentive plan that will give $10,000 bonuses to successful teachers at 59 select schools. THIS IS THE BIG PRINT.

So what's the small print: First, the teachers must be from the core areas of mathematics, science, social studies, computer science, and world languages. Second, "success" as a teacher is based on a magical formula that produces a Classroom Effectiveness Index (CEI). And third, though every teacher in the district is evaluated using this formula, it is a teacher's choice if they want to participate (i.e. they may not want to compete for incentive pay).

And the even smaller print: The CEI is calculated using a "complicated statistical analysis" that basically converts student test scores into a number 1-100. Supposedly, the CEI statistically controls for "student variables like ethnicity, language skills and family income. When student test scores are fed into the formula, the result is a numerical rating that...allows DISD to measure how much each school was teaching students in a year." See, I always knew it...mathematics can produce magic...or at least give the appearance of such! The higher the CEI number, the more effective the teacher and the more likely they and their school will receive the large bonus. Unfortunately, Dallas school administrators admit they have basically hid the mathematical workings of the formula from both teachers and the public, despite its use for the past ten years.

Are teachers in favor of the CEI? No! For example, one teacher (Linda Broyles, chemistry) claims that her CEI last year was calculated using only 14 of her students, while she taught more than 120 students. But...the CEI has become a reality...through some more magic

When reading things like this, I realize that the processes of teaching and education itself are becoming more and more trivialized and demeaned...and I hate to see mathematics being the tool that justifies this step backwards. Teaching and learning mathematics are not competitions...and the successes cannot be measured solely by test scores....or even by a magical formula despite the complexity of the statistics involved. When will we learn? Never more, said the Raven.