I read a quote today attributed to W. Edwards Demming (yeah I know it’s Wikipedia, so what) which says, “Without data you’re just a person with an opinion,” to which I replied “With data, you’re just a person with an opinion on what the data means.”
That’s right. Data driven decision making obfuscates the opinions and leaves the meaning in the hands of people who almost always have an agenda and who almost always either cherry pick data or start with their answers and work backward.
But even if absolute intellectual integrity were possible, the observer effect and the unique and complicated lenses through which each observer views the information, results in inferences rather than glimpses at absolute truth.
The policies inspired by Education research are case-in-point. If I had nickel for every time an academic or an administrator or a politician proclaimed their ideas and policies were research based, and therefore unassailable, I’d have enough to start my own school and fund it in perpetuity
Leaving aside my very dim view of the results and rigor of education research, how the hell are policy makers supposed to make sense of the research when people look at the same numbers and reach different conclusions?