Bill Gates on the Importance of Measurement

Writing in the Saturday essay for The Wall Street Journal, Bill Gates underscores the importance of measurement:

In the past year, I have been struck by how important measurement is to improving the human condition. You can achieve incredible progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward that goal—in a feedback loop similar to the one Mr. Rosen describes.

This may seem basic, but it is amazing how often it is not done and how hard it is to get right. Historically, foreign aid has been measured in terms of the total amount of money invested—and during the Cold War, by whether a country stayed on our side—but not by how well it performed in actually helping people. Closer to home, despite innovation in measuring teacher performance world-wide, more than 90% of educators in the U.S. still get zero feedback on how to improve.

The essay touches on many issues, including vaccinations and education. Here is Gates on education reform in America:

I think the most critical change we can make in U.S. K–12 education, with America lagging countries in Asia and Northern Europe when it comes to turning out top students, is to create teacher-feedback systems that are properly funded, high quality and trusted by teachers.

Strong points throughout. As I highlighted entry #2 in my best longreads of 2012, I believe the science of measurement will become the norm in the future (especially that of self-measurement/analytics).