Wednesday, July 23, 2014

More stat-juking

There were more allegations in Parliament today that the government is juking the stats, with Andrew Little pointing at a report from the Taranaki Daily News that a Crown prosecutor had claimed:

"There was one occasion in 2012 when it was brought to my attention by another senior Crown prosecutor that a police prosecuting sergeant was telling a uniformed police officer in writing he should not have laid lower level drug charges as well as the class A and B charges my office were dealing with, because of the need to reduce crime by a certain percentage."
But its not just crime statistics. Its also education:
Parents can have little confidence in the Government’s National Standards after an Auckland school was told to manipulate its data so it added up, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins.

“Valley School in Pukekohe was advised in an email from the Ministry of Education to arbitrarily adjust student results from ‘below standard’ to ‘above standard’ to make their data add up.

“How can National Standards provide an accurate basis for measuring student achievement when the Ministry of Education is unilaterally scaling assessment results to produce the outcome it wants

This culture of stat-juking seems to be becoming pervasive. But its what happens when the people who collect the stats get sent a clear message from the top that the stats will improve or they will lose their jobs. But the result is that the stats become meaningless, which in turn means we have no idea at all about the effectiveness of policy, or the state of the world. The politicians love this, because the truth becomes whatever they say it is; they can say "crime is dropping", "educational achievement is rising", "our country is a better place", and there's no way to contradict them. But those of us who have to live in the unchanged reality which is not reflected by their false statistics shouldn't be so happy - because denying problems means denying any possibility of a solution. And when that problem is burglaries, domestic violence, or poor educational achievement, its not something we can afford to ignore for the rhetorical comfort of lying politicians.