Data-driven to distraction in school reform
By Valerie Strauss ,
Quantitative research is essential both for descriptive purposes and for testing sociological theories. We do, however, believe that many sociologists have had all too much faith in statistical analysis as a tool for generating theories, and that the belief in an isomorphism between statistical and theoretical models [...] has hampered the development of sociological theories built upon concrete explanatory mechanisms.
Let’s say I conducted a study in which I rented a fleet of helicopters and used those helicopters to, on a daily basis, transport a group of randomly selected students from Camden, NJ to elite private day schools around NJ and Philadelphia. I then compared the college attendance patterns of the kids participating in the helicopter program to 100 other kids from Camden who also signed up for the program but were not selected and stayed in Camden public schools. It turns out that I find that the helicopter kids were more likely to attend college – therefore I conclude logically that “helicopters improve college attendance among poor, minority kids.
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