Thursday, April 26, 2012

Re: [ACAT] RDA cataloging or how to miss the forest for the trees -- statistics

Posting to Autocat

On 26/04/2012 16:59, Brenndorfer, Thomas wrote:
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Sample size can make these surveys unreliable. [RE: http://www.oclc.org/reports/onlinecatalogs/default.htm "Online Catalogs: What Users and Librarians Want"--JW]

Compare this to the math mistake the Gates Foundation made in promoting smaller schools: http://www.businessweek.com/print/magazine/content/10_30/b4188058281758.htm http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s8863.pdf

The wrong conclusion was made. There was no causal link between smaller school size and grades-- there is only the variability to the extremes at either end that small samples produce. The phenomenon that some small schools were linked to more students with higher grades led to the false conclusion that all schools need to be small to produce good results. This math mistake and statistical fallacy cost the Gates Foundation millions of dollars.
</snip>

It didn't only cost the Gates Foundation--what happened to the public was even worse. See "Bill Gates: Selling Bad Advice to the Public Schools": http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/05/23/bill-gates-selling-bad-advice-to-the-public-schools.html. As this article states: "The main effect of Gates' policy has been to demoralize millions of teachers, who don't understand how they went from being respected members of the community to Public Enemy No. 1." and now, he wants to get rid of "bad teachers" based on, of all things, students' test scores.

The reason I am bringing this up is that it is an excellent example of the dangers of putting theory before practice. To be honest, I don't care if the Gates Foundation, or Gates himself, lost a few million dollars. I think we can all assume that those people will be OK. I am much more concerned about the teachers who have suffered from these theories, along with the students who are the real victims, since they now have to deal with lousy educations.

Yes, I see a cautionary tale with RDA and FRBR here.

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