Duking The Stats 2: Campbell’s Law

[BPSDB]Duking the stats seems to be continuing apace in my workplace. Now management want behaviour to seem better than it actually is.

To very briefly summarise our behaviour policy, the kids are given ‘merits’ for good behaviour and ‘demerits’ for bad. These are collated by management to get an idea as to whether behaviour is improving, getting worse or staying the same.

I was discussing stat-fiddling on Bad Science here and it was pointed out that the correct name for this is Goodhart’s Law. Goodhart was initially talking about economics but his law is more generally applicable. Another poster pointed out that Campbell’s Law was applicable to this sort of situation. The law reads:

The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to

Campbell’s Law appears to be operating in my workplace because all staff have received an email noting an overall decline in the number of merits handed out. This was not an enquiry as to why this was, it was a thinly veiled instruction to hand out more.

I have also heard that some members of staff have been told that they are handing out “too many” demerits. It would appear then, that behaviour is getting worse. It further appears that the management approach is to treat the symptoms rather than the cause. I get the distinct impression that they believe that their surrogate measure is the reality and that by manipulating the surrogate they will change reality. Campbell’s Law applies.


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2 Responses to “Duking The Stats 2: Campbell’s Law”

  1. teachingbattleground Says:

    I don’t know if it’s down to Campbell’s Law. Regardless of how behaviour is being monitored the rule always seems to be that good schools ask teachers to punish more, bad schools ask them to punish less.

  2. darthtater Says:

    I loved the Google ad under your post – it was for a behaviour management system – you should point it out to your SMT (or do you have an SLT?) to help them in their manipulation of the data.

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