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Thompson: To Each His Own Evidence

Payforperformance Claus von Zastrow, recoiling from educational know-nothingism of recent opinion pieces in the Washington Post and the New York Times, suggested "pay newspaper pundits for their performance. Pay them only for what they get right, or for judgments based on strong evidence"

What would such a grand bargain look like? Merit evaluations would lead to a quick exit of Jonathan Alter’s opinions.  Richard Whitmire might avoid burnout and only seeing the worst in educators as a mentor refreshed his memory about journalism's best practices.  Also with a little mentoring, Jay Mathews could assess the unhappy sides of stories as well as the uplifting, and I suspect he would rise into the top quintile. But if we evaluate on cold hard accuracy, the top bonuses would go to Gerald Bracey, and think of how blunt Bracey would be after receiving the full recognition he deserves.

We would need to evaluate the accuracy of headlines. For instance, Nicholas Kristof’s book report on education and poverty would not have been as misleading were it not the absurd title, "Best Antidote to Poverty? Good Teachers." But would Value Added Models result in the mass firings of headline writers over transgressions for which they may have little control?

Pay for performance would be most promising in "exiting" editors who accept lower standards for education writers than the foreign affairs beat. I have read Kristof for years, so does that qualify me to prescribe policies for Darfur or catching alleged spies in New Mexico? The New Yorker's editors, seeking colorful stories about legal absurdities, found their man in Steven Brill whose experience in law is matched by his ignorance of educational research. If they have no accurate information on the dry and complex issue of growth model validity, editors must be held accountable for googling some basic social science. - John Thompson


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You, Alexander, and Claus all deserve merit pay raises, John. But absent any value-added means of standardized tests linking you to your readers, you won't get the raises. Blame the no-good teachers' unions. They're the obstructionists in the way of Reform that will get us to the top of the Blogosphere.

Bracey? That lying creep? Give me a break.

Jay Mathews is not a reporter....the mere fact that the Washington Post runs his columns right next to his "news reports" is a shame. Lets have the reporter give his opinion then right alongside have him objectively report on the same issue...that's bull. It is absurd...not to mention Mathews has no idea what he is talking about. Sure let's have information from his experiences, those can be tested and validated...what a jerk he is.....

I've been proposing that print journalists be paid according to fluctuations in the circulation of the publications they write for, actually -- and maybe the profitability, or lack thereof.

That would be a more apt parallel to the notion -- so widely endorsed by print journalists -- of paying teachers based on their students' test scores.

(Broadcast journalists aren't even worth acknowledging.)

For the record, I actually like Jay Mathews. I don't always agree with him, but he feel he treats others with respect. More important, he'll bend in the face of evidence. I've been quite frustrated with Jonathan Alter, who's recent pieces on school reform don't pass the laugh test, making even ardent reformers cringe.

Of course, I meant to write "whose recent pieces," not "who's recent pieces...." Embarrassing!

We should all remember the obvious. Opinion writers are opinion writers and even if they publish on the same page or post on the same screen as journalists, the reader has a responsibility to keep that in mind. And scholars like Bracey operating according to longstanding rules of investigation can be tested for their accuracy according to the rules of evidence.

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