CONTRACTING A REAL PERFORMANCE
©1999 Edward G. Rozycki
The School District of Lovesburg contracted with the Nachtflieger Corporation to have them raise the reading scores of its Middle School pupils. Three million dollars were paid initially. Eight million more were to be paid when testing verified improvement after a two-year pilot project. Every still-warm body that a stretched imagination might identify as a Middle School pupil was given a test to establish the performance baseline. Two years later the crucial test of the efficacy of the Nachtflieger program took place.
There were some minor hang-ups. The answer sheets were misprinted: to mark A, one had to mark B, etc. No one thought this important enough to delay testing to get new sheets. Also, special written instructions accompanied the test indicating that if personal data were not formatted in the manner described therein different from what was indicated on the answer sheets themselves, the pupil's test results would not be counted.
The test was administered amidst great confusion. Nonetheless, by discounting improperly filled out forms, the Nachtflieger Corporation could produce hard data to prove they had fulfilled their contract. The Superintendent was pleased to announce a significant increase in the reading skills of Middle School pupils.
An educational evaluator from Lovesburg U., sometimes consultant to the School District, was told of the methods and conditions of testing. He quickly pointed out that such a procedure would be invalid because special instructions issued for the posttest would restrict the collection of data to those already highly skilled as readers. "That can't have happened," be protested to his informant. "You must have misperceived the situation, because what you described would be out-and-out fraud."
Thus he comes to the conclusion
The whole affair was but illusion,
Because -- he argues, razor-witted --
That cannot be what is not permitted.
Palmstroem, C. Morgenstern - Trans. W. Kaufmann
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