One Number is Fine As Long As It’s My Number

I’ve been following the reactions to Newsweek’s recent publication of Jay Mathews’ annual list anointing the top high schools in the US and resisting the urge to turn this into a full-time rant over the “challenge” index.

However, I can’t pass this final paragraph in the magazine’s follow up article about critics of the ranking without saying something.

Mathews is the first to admit that responding to criticism is something he loves. Often, when educators e-mail him complaining about his system, he gets back to them asking for a better metric. “The most valid criticism I hear is that you can’t judge a school by one number,” he says. “But numbers are useful, and I’ve been putting out a challenge for a new number for 11 years; not one person has come back to me.”

Ok, let me see if I understand this.

You can’t judge a school by a single number but the ranking system I’ve devised that produces a single number is valid anyway because no one else has come up with another ranking system based a single number.

Does anyone in the media consider that a single-number rating of high schools (and the furious publicity that surrounds it), regardless of the source, is nothing more than a substitute for a serious discussion of what exactly is a “high quality” school?

I’m going to stop reading this stuff, find something on Hulu, and let the aliens suck out my brains.

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