I’m not the only one who says G.I.’s Ladner cherry-picks data

by David Safier

One of my favorite tasks is debunking the Goldwater Institute's Matthew Ladner as he skews data and reaches unwarranted conclusions. Now that Ladner is becoming something of a national figure, traipsing to other states to share the gospel of the "Florida Education Miracle," others have begun picking up the scent of his propaganda trail.

The latest is Madhabi Chatterji, at the Teachers College, Columbia University. Chatterji takes apart Ladner's latest piece, Closing the Racial Achievement Gap: Learning from Florida’s Reforms, published by the Heritage Foundation, reaching similar conclusions to the ones I have discussed on the blog and going into greater depth than I have in discussing the findings.

The shorter version of the criticism is, you can't compare Florida's fourth grade reading scores on the national NAEP exam with those of other states when Florida holds back its lowest scoring third graders. Those third graders who are held back would bring the curve way down if they were promoted. Instead, they take the test one year later, when they're one year more mature and have had one more year of reading instruction. It's as if they're taking the fourth grade test as fifth graders.

A summary of Chatterji's findings creates a perfect analogy. What if we were comparing the average height of fourth graders across the nation? If Florida held back 20% of its third graders, they would be one year taller when their height was measured in the fourth grade. Voila! Florida has the tallest fourth graders in the country!

Ladner knows all this, of course. He's a smart guy and clearly does a lot of research. But he only acknowledges data and research that back up his predetermined conclusion. That's not scholarship. It's propaganda.

0 responses to “I’m not the only one who says G.I.’s Ladner cherry-picks data

  1. David, I have been with you for years as to Mr. Ladner’s
    use, or is it misuse?, of data to propogate his political will. I am again reminded that this Research Director has a background in politics rather than educational research. I recently watched him in action at Jeb’s DC Conference. I am
    curious as to how he can sleep. I can no longer refute his half truths as I now find his stuff in closed formats where challenges are not possible. We have both drawn attention to his shortcomings relevant to data presentation and faulty conclusions. Too bad few look more closely at Ladner’s work.
    Children pay for the adult’s inattention, There is more to be known.