Measure What You Do

After a bit of an injury bout, I’m working to get back on the running trail. I was hurt, I felt better, I ran too much, I got hurt again. So now I’m on the slow and steady path, and have enlisted my pooch as a running companion. Since she’s not run before, she can’t run too far, and while I can, I shouldn’t. And since she’s new to this, she’s trying to find the stride between slow and fast, and so am I. She’s a young dog, and well, you get the point. 😉 But the last two runs I’ve strapped on my polar watch, to measure my heart rate and distance and time. I know I’m not going far and I’m not going fast, but I want to measure what I do so I have a baseline and a sense of where to go next – measurement is knowledge. And it’s the holy grail for PR as well – and one which always spurs great debate. But everyone agrees, at least in our industry, that it’s important, even if we disagree about exactly how to do it.

So it was a bit of a shock that I read this story about measuring schools and teachers in the NYT today. Key grafs:

“We’ve always said that we need to be able to understand where teachers are successful and learn from that,” the schools chancellor, Joel I. Klein, said in an interview last week. “Nobody thinks you can boil down teacher effectiveness to a single criteria, and we also should not ignore student performance as an important criteria.”

Last year, the State Legislature passed a law prohibiting using student test data as a factor in tenure decisions, at the urging of teachers’ unions. And in a deal with the United Federation of Teachers, the city agreed not to make the results public.

Okay then. Test, measure and don’t tell…wow. And here’s the other quote, which I really hope was taken out of context:

Ms. Pierre, for example, said that she worried about how the reports would affect morale and decided that she would tell teachers they could see the reports if they wanted. Most of those who did, she said, were among the higher teachers.

“I really didn’t see the purpose, because it wasn’t very clear what they were supposed to take away, and they might have had questions I would have not been able to answer,” she said. “I didn’t want them to be distracted in the middle of the year.”

My POV is that people want to know where they stand and how they are doing, because pretty much everyone wants to improve. And morale is killed, not helped, but withholding this kind of information.

One Response to “Measure What You Do”

  1. Daria Steigman Says:

    Hi Frank,

    Interesting post. I agree with you, people need to know where they stand–and most want to know so they can improve performance. But I’m wondering if the real issue in the teachers’ case is not about measurement, but about reporting (beyond the teachers themselves).

    A similar example is physicians. Physician groups say that doctors want to know how they rank against their peers (and where/how to improve if needed), but have been reluctant for the information to be reported on publicly. Raises all those pesky questions about accountability.


    PS: Good luck getting back in running form. (I’m trying to boycott injuries this year.)

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