Thursday, August 30, 2007

Pass or fail versus incompletes and do-overs

A congressional audit of progress in Iraq shows that the Iraqi government hasn't been completing most of its homework assignments.

The Associated Press has learned that "the GAO report will conclude that at least 13 of the 18 benchmarks set to judge the Iraqi government's performance in the political and security arenas haven't been met."

The White House is complaining that the GAO refuses to grade on a curve; won't give credit for trying really, really hard; and hasn't liked Iraq from the very first day of school.
At the White House, officials argued that the GAO report… was unrealistic because it assigned "pass or fail" grades to each benchmark, rather than assessing whether the Iraqis have made progress toward reaching the benchmark goals.

"A bar was set so high, that it was almost not to be able to be met," White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said….

An internal White House memorandum [argues that] the GAO will not present a "true picture" of the situation in Iraq because the standards were "designed to lock in failure.…"
And Bill Kristol is whining that what's being graded is just stupid stuff that nobody really cares about—and no extra credit is being given to those Iraqis who always show up with two sharpened pencils, an eraser, and a clean handkerchief.
The benchmarks they do use are often absurd. To take one example: "Increasing the number of Iraqi security forces units capable of operating independently." This is particularly silly.
I know. I can't believe the silliness myself. Maybe it's time to institute a voucher system and start up some charter armies.

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