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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Experiment on Teachers

I was appalled to read of the experiment that the New York Board of Education was carrying out in 280 schools in New York City (New York Measuring Teachers by Student Progress on Tests, New York Times, January 20, 2008: A1, A15).

In this, teachers in 140 schools are being evaluated on whether or not the pupils in their classrooms improve their test scores, while teachers in another 140 schools are to be used as a comparison group. According to the story you published, many teachers are not being told that they are part of the experiment because the issue is "so contentious." This is a grave ethical breach. For any experiment to be carried out on human subjects, the subjects of the experiment must provide informed consent. In this case, both the teachers and the students in the 280 schools should have been asked to give their permission.

Yes, gaining permission muddies the waters about whether any observed change might have occurred because people knew that they were being observed or whether the recording of progress was the cause of change; but the rule of informed consent must be followed if we are to maintain integrity in social science and educational research.

Sent to New York Times

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