Value Adder

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 08 2012

Diane Ravitch Blocked Me on Twitter

ETA: Can’t figure out how to get comments working.


There are 23,909 people following Diane Ravitch on Twitter. I am no longer one of them, and not by choice. Has anyone ever heard of a public figure doing this?

The background: Ravitch went on a Twitter rampage yesterday railing against a study showing a highly significant (economically and statistically) relationship between having high Value-Added teachers and a variety of QOL factors ranging from earnings to teen pregnancy.  More accurately, Diane Ravitch railed against the NYT-reported version of the study without reading the actual paper. I’m all for healthy debate, but if you are going to take potshots at 3 elite economists on twitter, you better do your research first.

It started with this:

@DianeRavitch: How could economists review 20 years of value-added scores when there were none 20 years ago?

@DianeRavitch: How did economists gather personal information about so many individuals and know which teachers taught them?

@Diane Ravitch: Still left with puzzle about how they got test scores over 20 years when NCLB testing started only in 2003.

Now, I will admit, perhaps I was a bit rude in my first general response to her questioning.

@tomburr: @DianeRavitch All of your questions are answered… As they say, RTFM.

What got me so frustrated was that that these questions are so easy to find in the paper itself. I will admit, it would probably take me a full week to digest this 70 some-odd page paper. That being said, the amount of effort it would have taken ravitch to simply cntrl-f for the answers to her questions is minimal. As an academic, she has no plausible excuse for not doing this first.

While asking questions that can easily be googled/found on one’s own has always bothered me personally, when it is done by a public figure it takes it to a whole other level. What happens is that Twitter acts as an echo-chamber for Diane Ravitch’s followers, where she comes off as the white knight taking down these harvard fraudsters.

Well, Ravitch kept asking questions, so I tried to answer a few.

@TomBurr: @DianeRavitch data are from “administrative records of a large urban school district”, I would guess due to privacy issues. Most likely NYC

And then, in a significant moment for myself, a public figure finally responded to my heckling on twitter.

@DianeRavitch:@TomBurr NYC sometimes changed annual tests and scores not strictly comparable from year to year.

So, I answered her question

TomBurr@DianeRavitch Thats why each year is standardized (mean 0, SD of 1). The fact that the test changed doesnt really matter.

Now, having answered her statistical question in <140 characters, I’m feeling pretty good. Any moment, she’s going to acknowledge my response as any respectable public figure would.

15 minutes pass and nothing. So, I got angry. Ravitch reminded me of a very interesting article from The Economist a couple of weeks ago about how great blogging has been for the economics community while for others it largely just functions as a virtual yes-man.

@TomBurr:@DianeRavitch is prime example of spreading misinformation and cheapening debate via twitter. See:

That got her attention.

@DianeRavitch:@TomBurr So, no one is allowed to ask questions about non-peer-reviewed study reported on p. 1 of NY Times?

@DianeRavitch@TomBurr When you start teaching, let me know how you feel about being judged by changes in your students’ scores, esp those absent.

Cool, not only was DR responding to my tweets, she was finding out a little about me, too!

@TomBurr@DianeRavitch You asked a question, I answered it, you refused to acknowledge. People are being misled by you whether you mean it or not.

@TomBurr: @DianeRavitch Nearly all of the questions you ask can be found in the paper that you ave(sic) not read. Fits my definition of cheapening debate.

And that is the real point of my story. Were some anonymous rando(myself, for example) asking questions like Diane Ravitch was, there would be no problem. Yes, they could find these things themselves, but its just annoying and not harmful. Diane Ravitch, however, has a greater responsibility as an academic and as a public figure.  I’m repeating myself, but for her to rapid-fire off seemingly incriminating questions without bothering to read the actual paper the article is based on is disgusting. Furthermore, when her questions are answered, refusing to acknowledge them is out and out dishonesty.


Finally, when I woke up this morning, I found that she had blocked me.  In my opinion, she is a fraud.


With great power(or Klout in the parlance of our times) comes great responsibility.


*For a more reasonable critique of the actual concerns about this study (e.g., mistakes will happen when firing based on VAM, potentially no supply of better teachers) , see Bruce Baker at SchoolFinance101 .

** I realize this was an awkward first post. A little about myself: senior economics major to be teaching secondary math next year. Highly interested in/doing senior thesis using value-added modeling.

*** Why did she block me? Probably these two tweets

TomBurr@DianeRavitch answered this for you an hour ago. Why are you so lazy? READ THE STUDY.

TomBurr@dianeravitch deletes tweet when she realizes she was wrong. Personal Victory. (Leaves semi-slanderous tweet about legality of data access)

Now, maybe I was mistaken. Maybe my twitter feed was messed up and DR didn’t delete something. It appeared to me that way at the time.  If so, I apologize (and recognize the irony of slandering someone in a tweet half accusing of slander.) I welcome DR to explain herself.


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