Over two centuries ago American colonies revolted against the crown under the slogan “no taxation without representation.” It is such a basic principle, you should be able to participate in the decisions that affect your life.
Today, we are faced with a new challenge; evaluation by secret algorithms. Right now, teachers across the country are being evaluated by proprietary value added algorithms. Recently, in Ohio, the contractor who produces the value added ratings announced that there had been an error in this year’s calculation. Because the formula used to calculate the value added measures are secret, we have to rely on the good intentions of the contractor. There is no way to independently assess the contractor.
But there is a more fundamental question here, how can it possible be fair to be evaluated by a secret formula? I do not believe that value added measures of teaching are valid. Perhaps, one of the reasons they keep the formula secret is that people might come to realize that the practice itself is flawed.
This is not just an issue for teachers. There are efforts to evaluate colleges of education based on these secret algorithms. There have even been proposals to evaluate doctors this way. Secret evaluation techniques allow employers to have arbitrary power over employees.
Transparency in evaluation should be a basic right for all workers.
A study in Current Directions in Psychological Science tells us “The Adult Brain Makes New Neurons, and Effortful Learning Keeps Them Alive.” Here is the abstract:
“The brain continues to produce new neurons throughout life. For instance, the hippocampus (a brain region necessary for select learning processes) produces thousands of new neurons each day. However, a significant number of them die and do so within just a few weeks of their birth. Laboratory animals that are trained to learn a new skill between one and two weeks after the new cells are generated retain most cells that would have otherwise died. The types of skills that keep new cells alive are not limited to those that depend on the hippocampus but rather include those that are effortful to learn, requiring more training trials or time spent training. Importantly, training alone is not sufficient to increase cell survival; animals that are trained but do not learn do not retain more cells than animals that are not trained. Therefore, learning increases the survival of newly generated cells in the hippocampus as long as the learning experience is new, effortful, and successful. Once rescued, the vast majority of these cells differentiate into neurons, thereby forming synapses and generating action potentials as they become incorporated into the existing architecture and functional circuitry of the adult brain.”
Note the sentence: “learning increases the survival of newly generated cells in the hippocampus as long as the learning experience is new, effortful, and successful. ” So there’s no excuse, it’s time to take up a challenging learning project.
Here is the paper’s author, Tracey Shors, speaking on adult neurogenesis:
Fish oil supplements are often promoted as cognitive enhancers. But there is increasing evidence that fish supplements pose health risks. Dr. Greger looks at fish oil supplements for children:
My paper, “A failed demonstration of sun sign astrology,” has been published in the most recent issue of Comprehensive Psychology. Here is the abstract:
“A 2013 paper by Adel, Hossain, and Johnson presented findings that seem to support a tenet of astrology: the relationship between birth sign and celebrity. However, their finding was simply an artifact of assigning an arbitrary starting point to the zodiac signs and, consequently, the data do not support the validity of astrology.”
The Adel, Hossain, and Johnson paper that I critique can be found here.