Yo Teach…! Or how to avoid teaching like Jason

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 19 2013

In which I state Diane Ravitch is Illogical, and argue that Eric Hanushek is unethical

(I apologize for the sassy tone below, but now that I’m in grad school I need a place to let out this side of me).

I’m talking about Diane Ravitch and Eric Hanushek here. Actually, I can’t bring myself to talk about Diane Ravitch because the people who love to read her sweeping ad-hominem attacks on everyone and everything involved with the word “reform” tend not be fun debate partners. Was THAT an ad-hominem attack!? Maybe, but that underscores why I can’t have have these discussions.

BUT, I will talk all day about how the educational economist Eric Hanushek, who has been cited 33,000 times and whose economic analyses of education have been the backbone of practically all education policy of the past quarter century, is not an ethical statistician. Don’t read him for knowledge (just rage), don’t cite him unless you really have to (sometimes you do, evidenced again by the 33,000 CITATIONS). Why?

1. This article I discuss (eventually), in which he argues we should fire the bottom 10% of all teachers (without saying the words fire) because of an economic model he crafted. He doesn’t for a second discuss what the organizational consequences of such a policy on the remaining 90% of teachers, but I think they miiiight just influence those models.

2. There is also this article, in which Eric Hanushek literally defines his “working conditions” variable based on how poor and how not white the students are: “Although the Texas data contain neither teacher no administrator reports on working conditions, they do contain information on student demographics, which we use as proxies for working conditions.”

Want to vomit yet?

3. In his new book Endangering Prosperity, which I will not link to on principle, Eric Hanushek and others build an argument that wealthier countries have higher test scores, that these higher test scores CAUSE wealth, and therefore we need to boost test scores, lest we get poor.

I have not read the book, and I won’t (unless someone convinces me to). But in¬†explaining how he knows that the correlation between wealthier countries and educational achievement is not causal in the opposite direction (aka how he knows that wealth does not cause educational achievement), he says:

“…if we look across other countries we see that there is no relationship between spending of countries and achievement, something you would expect [if wealth caused educational achievement]”

Essentially, he is saying the main way wealth would create good educational outcomes is by increasing investment in schools. Since that doesn’t happen, we are more sure that causality runs in the other direction. Sounds plausible…


For decades, Hanushek has enjoyed publishing analyses and meta-analyses showing increased spending does not lead to increased student outcomes. So he’s deliberately using and highlighting this variable to imply causality when he KNOWS that relationship won’t exist. This is called dishonesty. And it should result in being banned from the discourse (via norms, of course, not laws).

So. If anyone could defend him, that would help me grow as a thinker. Or, haters please hate.

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