THE BLOG
01/15/2015 10:09 am ET Updated Mar 17, 2015

The Great Chain of Educational Effectiveness

Image Source via Getty Images

The USED is ready to forge the next link in the Great Chain of Effectiveness.

We're already familiar with the two links. The very first chain is the testing link -- a standardized test covering narrow slices of two subject areas is forged as a measure of the full education of a child. The second link is from that test to the teacher. Soaked in magic Value-Added Measurement sauce, that second chain says that the test results are the responsibility of the teacher, and so the second link measures how effective that teachers actually is.

Link number three is on the way. That link will stretch from the classroom teacher back to the college department that trained her to be a teacher. The USED is proposing a heaping side order of VAM sauce for colleges and universities. If a student's results for bubbling in answers on questions about certain narrow areas of math and reading are too low, that is clearly the responsibility of the college department that certified the student's teacher. They should be rated poorly.

But why stop there?

That college education department is composed of professors who are clearly ineffective. The institutions that issued their advanced degrees should be rated ineffective. And their direct oversight comes from college administration -- so let's include their ineffectiveness of the college president's evaluation.

And where did that guy come from? This is more complicated, but we'll need to cross-reference his salary, because we know from Chetty et al that a good elementary teacher would have made a difference of several hundred thousand dollars in salary. So if our ineffective college president is also not super-well-paid, we can clearly conclude that his first grade teacher was ineffective -- let's hunt her down and downgrade her evaluation.

Of course, that raises another problem in our great chain of accountability. College presidents aren't generally young guys, so it's possible that his first grade teacher is dead. But now that we've located her, we can locate all the students she ever taught. Now, it's possible that some of her students went on to have successful careers even though she was ineffective -- we can discard those from the sample and assume that those are all students with grit. The rest of her former students who are not making big bucks must be the result of her ineffective instruction, and the government has an obligation to send letters to all of their employers indicating that federal government has determined that, due to an ineffective first grade teacher, those employees are losers.

Now if, any of those students went on to become teachers, we have a bit of a bind. If that teacher turns out to be ineffective, do we blame his college or his first grade teacher?

But back to our ineffective college president. Somebody hired him, so those people must also be rated ineffective. Those university trustees and directors are usually folks with successful careers, but their hiring of the president who ran the department that trained the teacher who taught the child who bubble in several wrong answers on his test reveals them to be actually ineffective. Good government oversight requires that any products produced by their companies should be stamped with a warning: "Warning. This product was produced by a company run in part by an ineffective human being."

Of course, some of those college presidents are in charge of public universities. These state schools are ultimately run by state level bureaucracies, and those are of course ultimately answerable to a governor. So the governor would have to be rated ineffective as well.

But the ineffective governor was elected by the people. I realize that it would require a breach of values that we've long held dear, but I think we've established that in the pursuit of effectiveness labels for education, long-held American values can go straight into the dumpster. So -- let's find out exactly who voted for that ineffective governor, and let's rate them ineffective voters and maybe we should take away their votes in the future and just bring in a charter voting company to do the voting for all those people, who in the meanwhile, have to be Great Chained back to their own first grade teachers who are clearly responsible for their ineffective voting.

You may say that the Great Chain of Effectiveness is built out of tin foil and tenuous connections, and that it violates laws of common sense and decency. Just watch it. That's the kind of talk that gets a person's first grade teacher on a list.