The New Zealand Herald published an article today with the following headline:
In it, they claim
[box]The Herald on Sunday has conducted a comprehensive survey of schools’ national standards results, before the Ministry of Education publishes them this week.[/box]
A comprehensive survey. Crikey, it must be true then.
I wonder what other gems are buried in this data? I’ve done my own comprehensive study and unearthed a pretty shocking revelation. The first letter of the school’s name has some bearing on performance. In the graph below you can clearly see that if you send your child to a school starting with I, they will get the best outcomes.
I expect to see schools changing their names pretty quickly. Oh, and also increasing class sizes because the Herald says that works too.
If you don’t understand what I’m saying, I’ll spell it out. The claim the Herald is making makes no comparison based on location, socio-economic situation, timing, teacher ability, or any other possible influence. It simply compares class sizes across the country and says “big is good”. Now, if the Herald was reporting a controlled, well designed study (like the Tennessee study for example), I’d be amazed by the outcome and it would change my (admittedly minimal) understanding of eductation.
Think about it. In New Zealand small classes are likely to skew toward country schools. These schools have different access to resources (including teachers), and will have mixed year levels. Now, if the Herald article had compared class sizes in the same locations (with similar teachers and kids) and found bigger is better, or even said “small country schools do worse than big city schools”, that would be interesting.
But it’s not interesting research. It’s a lazy article reporting a statistically irrelevant fact for shock value.