Education reformers should obey Campbell’s Law | IN 60 SECONDS


How can well-meaning, data-driven,
attempts to solve social problems actually make things worse?
Campbell’s Law may hold the answer. Crafted by a social scientist nearly
a half-century ago, the law basically says: “when a measure
becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.” The problems play out in many
fields, including education. Attempts to evaluate schools and teachers based on
reading and math scores cause educators to do everything possible to boost
results – whether that’s narrowing curricula, going goofy for test
preparation, or cooking the books. It brings to mind those old Soviet
factories, with their production quotas and shoddy products. But Campbell’s Law
applies to more than test scores. We’ve seen it play out when schools are told to
improve school safety numbers or to drive up graduation rates. Now, none of
this means that we should shy away from accountability or measurement in
education. But it does mean that we need to be a lot more attentive to how those
metrics get used. They need to respect the law. Campbell’s law, that is. How do
you think we should tackle accountability in American education?
Let us know in your comments. Also, let us know what other topics you’d like
our scholars to cover in 60 seconds and be sure to LIKE and subscribe for
more research and videos from AEI.

1 thought on “Education reformers should obey Campbell’s Law | IN 60 SECONDS”

  1. That makes a lot of sense. When I was teaching (special ed) my director was constantly on us about improving scores. It resulted in teaching kids ho to take a tests for my 3rd-5th graders. Many of them were still learning how to read but they were expected to answer questions on a passage that was well above their reading level. The younger kids that weren’t tested allowed for more freedom because I could focus on the skills that needed like phonics instead of their ability to analyze & comprehend. Those tests are poorly designed too, so that doesn’t help. We all were teaching the tests even though we didn’t want to.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *