Expert Ratings- A Cautionary Tale

July 15, 2016

GB Screenshot

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

A few months ago, I was on a panel discussing the incorporation of user reviews into the K-12 space for things like digital courses and ESAs. One of my fellow panelists expressed skepticism about the entire project until I noted that Rotten Tomatoes allows both “expert” and “user” reviews of movies. With this, he expressed contentment so long as the experts got their own ratings for separate consideration.

It has long been my experience using Rotten Tomatoes however that the user ratings tended to be much more reliable than the critic reviews. Last night I got a double barrel reminder of this when I allowed a 74% fresh critic rating convince me to go see Ghostbusters before the audience score came in (the studio released the film yesterday).

The 44% rating of the audience is incredibly generous. The 74% critic rating reveals some sort of deep divorce from reality. This movie is about as terrible as:

Star Trek V

Apparently 2o+% of people are just unwilling to admit that they paid to see a bad movie. What more proof? The critics nailed this one:

Highlander 2

Sometimes both the critics and the audience gets it wrong, but the critics get it more wrong. This would be the case with Ghostbusters 2016 and:

Jones Sometimes the critics and audience agree on a stinker:


So in the end, I’m happy to have “expert” reviews included, but if 74% of them thought that the hot mess I saw last night was a good movie, it says something important about relying solely on experts. Like everything else in life “experts” are not to be trusted.

Bustin’ Makes Butcher Feel Good

August 24, 2014

ghostbusters butcher

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So if the above picture looks like a sloppy attempt at photo editing by someone goofing around with a program for the first time, it is only because it is in fact just such an attempt.

So Arizona voters passed an initiative long ago that provided for inflation adjustments to K-12 spending. During the bubble years spending went up faster than inflation, but during the catastrophic collapse of the economy it went down less. The AZ school district non-profit industrial complex eventually sued to get the funding restored, and they recently won, sticking lawmakers with a $317,000,000 bill. Arizona is broke and unlikely to find that sort of change in the sofa, and requires a 2/3 vote of each chamber to raise taxes. So, what happens next?

The Goldwater Institute’s Jonathan Butcher went to the pages of the Arizona Republic to suggest a couple of ways to recoup the money. First- stop funding ghost students. Districts get paid on last year’s student count, charter schools on this year’s count. Ergo every time a child transfers from a district to a charter school the state pays for them twice for a year. This is a pure waste of money that will continue to grow with Arizona’s charter school sector. Butcher estimates this could gain the state $125m of the needed $317m. If I were Arizona’s higher education community I would jump on the Ghostbuster bandwagon because otherwise that $125m is likely to come out of higher education spending sooner rather than later.

Second Butcher proposes that some of the base funding for schools be conditioned on kids actually learning something. With half the high-schools in the state having 5% or less of the graduating Class of 2006 finish a Bachelor’s degree in six years, this sounds like a promising if tricky idea.  The taxpayers ought to be getting an ROI from Arizona public school spending dominated by student learning, not by mere babysitting.

It’s a Sign, All Right!

September 23, 2008

HT digitalius

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

When former Pinellas County teacher-union head and “national NEA activist” Doug Tuthill became president of the Florida School Choice Fund, Jay announced that dogs and cats were living together. (By coincidence, in the same week The Onion ran this, one of their best ever.)

Not so fast, says America’s Last Education Labor Reporter. “Tuthill has always been something of a union maverick,” notes ALELR in his latest communique. “He was a new unionist well before NEA President Bob Chase took up the call and made it official policy. Tuthill’s essay in the February 1997 NEA Today, headlined ‘Time to Face the Hard Truth,’ could have been written today – which might explain why Tuthill has gone over to the Dark Side.”

ALELR quotes from Tuthill’s article: “The traditional role of education unions has been to protect members from the negative effects of dysfunctional school systems. That’s not enough anymore.” As recently as 2004, Tuthill was calling for new unionism to “rise from the ashes” and was pushing for NEA involvement in charter school management, membership services for private schools, and “supporting” home schoolers.

Well, I read “Time to Face the Hard Truth,” and frankly, other than that one line about how unions should do more than protect teachers from being fired, it all looks like standard NEA boilerplate. “Today’s education unions must take on the task of transforming these systems. Our primary goal must be to create learning systems in which all adults and children achieve at high levels.” Etc. Etc. Etc. These days the NEA just has computers write this stuff for them, switching the words around so we don’t notice (e.g. “Today’s education unions must take on the goal of transforming these learning systems for all adults and children. Our primary task must be to create systems in which all achieve at high levels”). That frees up more time for them to hang out in their member-funded stadium skyboxes and go on those all-important conference trips.

So ALELR is right that the essay “could have been written today,” but not by a reformer. This kind of fluff only passes as deep thought among the “wow, man, kids need so much” crowd.

In the article, Tuthill talks about a teacher who was being fired for incompetence: ” ‘I know I haven’t done a good job,’ she said crying, ‘but I’m doing the best I can. These kids have so many problems, I just don’t know where to begin. What am I going to do?’ “

What happens? The union saves her job, and Tuthill is glad that this incompetent teacher is returned to the classroom. He sees her as a “victim” of “dysfunctional systems.” His only regret is that more effort (read: money) isn’t being spent on teacher training to help ensure that future teachers won’t be incompetent:

I was pleased that our union had helped her, but the episode bothered me. This teacher had been the victim of a series of dysfunctional systems. She was poorly trained, improperly placed, and not adequately supported. Consistent with our traditional advocacy role, we helped her, but we did nothing to change the systems that caused her problems.

Even that line about unions doing more than just protecting teachers from being fired gets it wrong. What does he say the union is protecting teachers from? “The negative effects of dysfunctional school systems.” I guess any school system that wants to fire a teacher is by definition dysfunctional.

Tuthill gets a little maverick cred simply for mentioning the fact that unions do help prevent teachers from being fired, but is that all it takes to render Tuthill’s move to the school choice movement a yawner?

With all due respect to ALELR, if Tuthill has signed on to lead the charge for school choice, it’s clear that he’s made a lot of progress since 1997. Dogs and cats are indeed living together. Now it’s just a question of how many more politicians realize that they can save the educational lives of millions of registered voters.

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