Tuesday, June 3, 2008

That's the rub -- data

Documents Government sought out the findings to support its early French immersion conclusion, citizen group says

Published Tuesday June 3rd, 2008

FREDERICTON - Documents uncovered through a Right to Information request suggest the Liberal government may have come to a predetermined conclusion on the fate of early immersion, then looked for data to back it up, according to a group fighting the reforms to French immersion.

Portions of the documents, including some names, were blacked out. But at the core of the debate is an e-mail exchange between an unknown individual and James Croll, who co-authored the report on French second-language programming that the province used as a foundation for its decision to axe early immersion.

An e-mail sent by Croll on Nov. 8, 2007, at 6:54 a.m. reads: "I'm putting together the portion of the report dealing with 'streaming.' So far, we have a bunch of anecdotal material which Faith has dug out of our interviews but, that is good as colour following the presentation of data.

... and that's the rub - data." The e-mail goes on to discuss specific pieces of data the report's authors needed to "make the case for the streaming that's been going on," including the number of identified special needs children in Grades 1 and 2, and the number OF special needs children in French immersion in those same grades for the 2006-07 year.

"This seems to be the only route we can go to address: the 'streaming effect' and it's impact upon the choices of immersion, and the Grade 2 discrepancies in literacy assessment - so it'll kill two birds with one stone,"the e-mail reads.

"This is an area that's very critical to the status of our report as the issue has been raised by senior personnel."

According to Craig Leonard, a local executive member of Citizens for Educational Choice, the e-mail exchange indicates a"backwards"process.

"The main concern is that we're seeing a lot of data being requested that seems to be in an attempt to support conclusions that are already reached,"Leonard said.

Citizens for Educational Choice is a grassroots group formed in response to Education Minister Kelly Lamrock's French second-language reforms. The group has made a request for a judicial review of Lamrock's plan, which will be heard before a court in Saint John on Wednesday.

But education department officials deny there is anything untoward about the exchange.

"I think the e-mails need to be viewed in a greater context," spokesperson Jordan O'Brien said. "This is one e-mail that's being cherry-picked out because there's something without context that may be considered a red herring." Leonard also raised concerns about another e-mail in the same chain, sent by Croll on Nov. 8, 2007, at 11:41 a.m. An excerpt reads: "When examining the early immersion versus the English or core program literacy results, there is barely a significant difference which is nothing short of remarkable (in terms of why one would logically expect).

"The issue seems to be that we're definitely measuring two very different populations and, outside of the fact that the French immersion assessment is at a substantially lower level of literacy, there has to be a much more heterogeneous population in the 'English' program." This indicates a jump to conclusions by the report's co-author, Leonard said, noting there are other potential reasons for the closely aligned literacy scores that seem to have been ignored.

"Perhaps with the vast majority of exceptional students, help and support in the core program is much better and that's the cause of the (higher than expected) scores in core," he said, noting similar resources could have been put in place to help exceptional students in early immersion.

But according to O'Brien, the difference clearly indicates "the immersion class is not doing as good of a job of teaching literacy as the core program."

Bloggers' notes: The details of these communications suggest that the result was pre-determined and that this report was not an objective review of the French Second Language program but a directed execution of Early French Immersion.

Mr. O'Brien's comments at the end of the article clearly underlie the circularity of their argument. He assumes that EFI students should be doing better, then when we see that they are not, he claims that clearly EFI is failing.

Their entire argument rests on an assumption that they have no data to support, yet they constuct an argument to explain that too.

This is light years away from any accepted approach to scientific research. Even Minister Lamrock has admitted that EFI does work for those enrolled, yet here we see a member of his staff again trying to claim that it is a bad program.

For those interested, to be truly objective science one follows what is called the "Scientific Method". From Wikipedia --

"Among other facets shared by the various fields of inquiry is the conviction that the process must be objective to reduce a biased interpretation of the results. Another basic expectation is to document, archive and share all data and methodology so they are available for careful scrutiny by other scientists, thereby allowing other researchers the opportunity to verify results by attempting to reproduce them. This practice, called full disclosure, also allows statistical measures of the reliability of these data to be established."

Clearly DOE needs to better understand these concepts.

1 comment:

Harold Jarche said...

Once again, Lamrock and the Liberal party have completely confused rhetorical methods with the scientific method.