Monday, May 15, 2006

Probability theory and CSE meetings


I am not a mathematician, but I have a basic understanding of the concept of probability. Given my uneven degree of skill in shooting arrows, if I am to pick up a bow and aim it toward a bullseye you can apply laws of probability to determine where the arrow will hit, or in which direction it will miss, the target.

This of course assumes a 'fair' set of circumstances. Also, one would probably need to apply the law of large numbers because there is always the odd chance that I could hit a bullseye on my first attempt.

I am thinking about this because it is that time of year when parents ask we to attend CSE meetings with them. Almost invariably, the parents are not satisfied with the educational program that is being offered by the school. After 18 years of practice, I still have not had a parent come to me indicating that they need my help to get the school to offer less services, or a more compacted and efficient plan.

I am relatively certain that my practice is attracting a small subset of the whole; certainly not every parent is dissatisfied. It is accurate to say that this subset that finds me is dissatisfied, and they tend to be dissatisfied because in their opinion the school is not providing the correct amount and type of services.

So if schools are 'missing the bullseye' when it comes to parental satisfaction with programs offered, probability theory might indicate that they would miss the mark in any number of different directions. It is plausible, if one is to take an independent perspective, that the schools should miss by overproviding as well as underproviding - and that parent's responses, equally guided by probability but distributed along a normative curve, would also range from low satisfaction to high satisfaction. Given these circumstances, I am left wondering why no parents ask me to help advocate for fewer occupational therapy sessions, or to have the school back off because they are overloading the child with unnecessary services.

If we apply Occam's razor to this problem, what is the solution?

No comments: