The astroturf groups ParentRevolution and SpeakUp are flooding social media of late with their PR-honed contention that opposing LAUSD charter-advocacy-backed members Nick Melvoin’s and Kelly Gonez’ School Performance Framework (“SPF”), is “hiding” data from parents.

What sort of double-speak nonsense is it to claim that full access to direct data unencumbered by crazy data manipulation, is “hiding” data? Just publishing the data, as directed by boardmember Jackie Goldberg’s alternate resolution, is the complete opposite of “hiding” it. “Hiding data” is in fact precisely what the market-based Education-reform, charter-school ideologues are advancing when they claim manipulated data is more true than the data itself.

This highly-vaunted “growth data” they crusade for is a variant of the data manipulation enlisted by the same legions of “quants” arguing how best to maximize their personal stock portfolio. It is math (technically, algebra) weaponized for maximizing personal earnings. Not yours, not mine, and not students’ educational assets either. This is a neoliberal game for those who are investing in education as a privatized asset:  financiers and charter school advocates.

What actually is “growth data”? 

It is a tool of social science, comparing “apples to oranges” by employing a statistical technique to adjust for what is integrally different about the fruits, leaving a debatably residual “direct” comparison. 

The claim is made, for example, that if an apple tree were shaded and an orange tree grown in full sunlight, a better comparison of their “true” relative growth could be made by adjusting for sunlight and then comparing girth directly.

One of many difficulties with this calculation is that what you might really care about in the end is whether you prefer the taste of apple or orange. So even while taste and girth may be related, still girth is a poor surrogate for preference or “excellence” in this sense. Girth is just one of myriad contributors to the fruit’s excellence.

And adding more of these determinants only complicates the model with interactions and crippling levels of mathematical uncertainty – all without ever reliably (or pragmatically) leveling differences inherent to the fruit.

But this is the SPF plan for comparing schools:  to ‘handicap’ (as for golfers) a school’s contrived outcome measures through a host of adjusted variables intrinsic to some modeling formula no parent or member of the public ever sees, ever validates, or authorizes. We are asked to simply entrust consequential decisions to an opaque mathematical prediction. We are to rely on not the data itself, but someone else’s estimate of the future.

In other words, “growth” data is the very essence of data, hidden.

There is no shortcut around comprehending a waterfall’s worth of data beyond studying it. Collecting more of it may not necessarily improve prediction, and neither does rococo manipulation. California’s school dashboard is a plain tool that presents just-the-data and offers a little context for understanding. It does not transform data into something else. It is not pseudo-science distracting from alchemy. It does not erase or collapse complexity which is fitting, because the right school for your child will mirror his own complexity.

Next Tuesday, November 5 the LAUSD school board will affirm our right to evaluate undoctored data, plainly and truthfully. Raw data is effectively hidden when processed by ideological magic. It’s just a Trumpian humbug to pretend that only derivation can reveal the truth. We all deserve honesty. Tell your boardmember to support Jackie Goldberg’s resolution “Ensuring Support for Students”.

Find your schoolboard member through this website:

And convey your support for Tuesday’s “tab 25” today (on page 458 here) directly as follows:

By phone:  213-241-xxxx where Board District (BD)
BD1’s George McKenna is -6382;        BD2’s Monica Garcia is -6180;
BD3’s Scott Schmerelson is -8333;     BD4’s Nick Melvoin is -6387;
BD5’s Jackie Goldberg is -5555;         BD6’s Kelly Gonez is -6388;
BD7’s Richard Vladovic is -6385 and   Superintendent Austin Beutner is -7000.

By email:  according to the pattern