Chris Hayes offers a take on the VA scandal that's calculated to warm the hearts of America's teachers unions:
Current VA story is a classic example how metrics ordered from above often just lead to books being cooked rather than better performance— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) May 21, 2014
See juking crime stats, Atlanta standardized test cheating scandal, etc...— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) May 21, 2014
These are arguments that should be familiar to fans of The Wire but the David Simon viewpoint has always puzzled me. Is a person who cheats in response to an incentive program the kind of person who's going to do amazing work in the absence of an incentive program, or the kind of person who's going to respond to the objective incentive to be lazy? If a data-based framework is imperfect, is going to a data-free one any better?
What is true is that you always want some kind of external check on your own metrics. The murder rate, for example, can't really be "juked" since dead bodies are easy to count. In addition to the state tests that are used for accountability purposes, students take the NAEP. And during the period that Hayes and Simon are so worried about, NAEP scores have generally risen while murder rates have generally fallen. Cheating is obviously bad, but it seems like a manageable problem occurring within the context of a successful effort to improve the quality of public services.