The Law Of Small Numbers

State education officials spent the majority of last week at the Square Building telling the House and Senate Education Committee members about the state’s Race to the Top grant status.

It was not a pretty story, and ended with Hawaii the only state to be placed on “high risk” status by the U.S. Department of Education.

State officials were told in December they did not make acceptable progress on the comprehensive school reform plan that had won Hawaii a four-year, $75 million grant in 2010.

Federal officials also raised concerns about whether the state DOE can fulfill it future commitments.

Now that the Hawaii State Teachers Association has rejected a tentative contract with the state, there are more questions to answer about our ability to retain Race to the Top funding.

I think it’s interesting how they come up with laws mandating policies and procedures. In this particular case, states wishing to voluntarily participate in Race to the Top have to jump through a series of hula hoops to get the money. They even suggested union members should accept the state’s offer to ensure securing their hard-earned funding.

Well, it didn’t work out that way, and the teachers had their say, regardless of what the federal education officials were pushing for.

This fits into the law of small numbers, referring to the tendency of people to draw conclusions from small sample sizes.

This is how we learn things in Hawaii. We extrapolate from our own experiences the tendency is to extrapolate prior experiences onto future negotiation, which often leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This is a good example of where the treatment from the feds is most always distributive, meaning it’s their way or no way, and consequently we respond in kind.

The danger in this kind of situation is these past lessons will be erroneously used to infer what will happen in the future.

Simply put, strategies that worked in the past may not work in the future. It might be a good idea for us to not believe that a streak of events is because of momentum and will continue.

That’s just a dangerous fallacy.

There is a lot of evidence that our DOE will do just fine touching up its Race to the Top plans, and regardless of what the feds think, it won’t be directly related to our collective bargaining problems.