This is the story of a teacher in a UK school who was set a target of 75% exam pass rate.
This summer the pass rate was 65%.
If we ignore all the things we know about measures and targets (common cause variation, arbitrary nature of targets, no method etc) there still was something meaningless in this particular cruelty.
“the truth is that eight of our students missed their C grade by one mark, and they did this because the exam board shifted the grade boundaries for controlled assessments up, which pushed students who had worked hard to achieve a mid-to-high level C into D territory. The fact of the matter is, my department’s teaching was good enough to meet the target, but we were at the mercy of exam boards and their arbitrary decision-making.”
The teacher in question is resigning as head of department and probably leave teaching altogether. The people who set the target of 75%?
They’ve set the target for next year to be 93%.
So here’s a simple heuristic…
If a manager sets a numeric target, they’re a bully, coward or a fool. Or combinations thereof.