The Stubbed Toe Effect (Wonky)

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On our Parent Satisfaction and Referral Survey, we ask both the importance and effectiveness of various program elements. (Failing to do just this simple step is one of three key reasons that most homegrown surveys are worthless.)  Both importance and effectiveness scores are percentile ranked (normed) between all the schools

In an analysis of a regional study of schools (elementary and secondary) of the same denomination, I stumbled across an interesting finding:  The less effective the school, the greater the average percentile ranks of the importance of program elements.

Operationally, a rough measure of effectiveness can be the average quality gap (average importance less average effectiveness) for all program elements tested.  You can also average together the percentile ranks of importance for those same items.

Running a Pearson Correlate, I came up with a .53 positive correlation between average of importance percentile ranks, and the size of the average quality gap for any given school, testing 15 schools.  Note that .60 and above is considered high, and .53 is a solid moderate correlation.

In other words, the greater the average quality gap, the greater the average of importance for percentile ranks for that school.

I hereby dub this the “Stubbed Toe Effect”, which means that the perceived importance of any program element tends to increase if that aspect of the program isn’t working so well.  (We realize just how important that big toe is when it’s stubbed ….)

This phenomena is a double whammy for schools struggling with quality issues.  Now the same issues that are problematic become MORE IMPORTANT to parents.  Oops.

By the way, we have known for a long time that overall importance for any given item can be increased by focusing on it.  I implore Principals to be “statesmenlike” (stateswomenlike?) in writing newsletters:  Why we do what we do around here – to what end.

Probably the stubbed toe effect is fueled by the fact that we talk about the problems we are fixing (or attempting to fix).  More and more I think the real answer is just to quietly fix the problem(s) rather than making a big deal of it in public.

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