The American Institute for Research published an article last month about why looking at the performance results for the Student Improvement Grant (commonly known as SIG) on a national level may not tell the whole story of SIG’s impact at the school or district level.
His point is that there are other factors that a national perspective needs to take into consideration, such as the role states and schools districts played into SIG’s success. AIR’s own study found that some districts were supportive and engaged with implementing the SIG policies that led to student improvement, while other districts in the program did not have the neccessary time commitment to make the program a success. With that said, it is hard to say that the program itself is not a a success, as the program, in some cases was not effectively implemented. AIR encourages the reader to dig a little deeper than SIG’s overall performance on a national level, and in doing so, we may find beneficial feedback on what parts of SIG worked for what types of schools. Just as important, a closer look would tell us what did not work and why.
This article brings to mind a larger issue with regard to data analysis and conclusions. To get a certain, probably biased, point across, policy makers, researchers, politicians, and journalists look at surface data that confirms their beliefs and then disseminate the information to the masses as truth. The clear danger in this is that we do not question what the story is not telling us. A basic example of this would be if a company ranks teacher salaries across a certain state or between the most populace cities. In this hypothetical situation, the site does not mention the cost of living in their results, which is a crucial component to understanding how teachers must use their salaries in order to teach. A more nuanced look at what teachers in each city or state have to spend would tell the reader that some teachers with the highest salaries have to to spend more than half of their net income on housing alone.
As a basis, students should constantly be taught ways to challenge and question how data and arguments are being presented. If this were done, would Trump be president?