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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Getting Past the Eye-Candy Test with Elementary Assessment Data

You can call it the “eye-candy test” problem.

It may not be as pronounced in education as it is in baseball. However, in almost every conversation I have with school district administrators we work with, they are focused on this core challenge: How can we make sure our data – not through some anecdotal perception or observation -- supports our decisions about how to improve student performance?

Brad Pitt played Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane in "Moneyball" a story about how the baseball team began using data to try to level the playing field with more profitable teams in the league.

When the concept comes up, I picture the scene in the movie “Moneyball” that depicts Brad Pitt – who plays general manager Billy Beane -- getting fed up with how his old-school baseball scouts are trying to identify the best players so their cash-strapped major league team can compete with the richer teams like the New York Yankees.

“He passes the eye-candy test. He's got the looks. He's great at playing the part. He just needs to get some playing time,” one scout says, while another questions the same player’s confidence because of how good-looking his girlfriend is.

Those more anecdotal observations could be important as a piece of the puzzle, but if you focus on that, decision-making becomes too arbitrary, which is the point of the book and the movie. Statistics and data add so much more.
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