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Why grading teachers on test scores is not as simple as it seems

LA School Report | March 25, 2015



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By Eduardo Porter | The New York Times

In 2004, the Chinese government decided there were too many accidental deaths. China’s safety record, it decreed, should be brought in line with those of other middle-income countries. The State Council set a target: a decline in accidental deaths of 2.5 percent per year.

Provincial authorities kicked into gear. Eventually, 20 out of a total of 31 provinces adopted “no safety, no promotion” policies, hitching bureaucrats’ fate to whether they met the death ceiling. The results rolled in: by 2012 recorded accidental deaths had almost halved.

It wasn’t, however, all about increased safety. For instance, officials could reduce traffic deaths by keeping victims of severe accidents alive for eight days. They counted as accidental deaths only if the victims died within seven.

In a study of China’s declining deadly accidents, Raymond Fisman of Columbia University and Yongxiang Wang of the University of Southern California concluded that “manipulation played a dominant role.” Bureaucrats — no surprise — cheated.

This is hardly unusual. It is certainly not exclusive to China. These days, in fact, it has acquired particular importance in the debate over how to improve American education.

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