The title comes from a scene in “The Wire” where detective-turned teacher Presbelouski is called to a staff meeting where he is told that children are to be withdrawn from normal classes in order to practice for the assessment tests. He complains to a colleague who explains the need for the school to improve their SATs scores. “Ah!” he says. “we’re duking the stats!” To her blank look he says “Making rapes disappear, turning felonies into misdemeanors. I’ve been here before.”
I have to say that “duking the stats” is neither peculiarly American nor peculiarly fictional.
We were all called to a meeting where we were told that the grades our pupils were getting for their coursework was not matching their predicted grades. There is a good reason for this, too many of them won’t do any work unless someone is standing over them. Coursework requires independent work so there’s a bit of a problem.
Previous heads of department solved this problem by means of endless “catch up sessions” which included sitting the not-so-eager seekers of knowledge at computers and dictating what they should write – in effect doing their coursework for them. This might result in improved grades but hardly improved education. Quite the contrary, as I have remarked before, we are teaching them to be useless.
This can all be laid at the door of school league tables: the SMT need the school to at least maintain its place and preferably climb upwards. So they know what percentage of A* to C grades are required and teachers are expected to achieve them – one way or another.