Mike Petrilli

Here's Why Twitter Rankings Don't Work

At the tail end of summer each year, Michael Petrilli, president of the education think tank Thomas B. Fordham Institute, puts out a list of the top education policy people on social media. People anxiously await the list, wondering if they will make the cut. This year, I made the cut. I sure as hell did not deserve it. Petrilli has been utilizing Klout scores as a determinant for inclusion and ranking the lists each year. He has also leveraged his own expertise in winnowing down the lists to folks who discuss primarily K-12 education policy. As he stated:
We wanted to limit the finalists to those who tweet primarily about K-12 education policy, and not education technology, higher education, parenting or other related topics. And sometimes that meant making tough judgment calls.
I was in the top ten with a Klout score of 67, yet I lagged far behind when it came to followers. Yes, I tweet and post on education policy a great deal. I also post on issues only peripherally related to education policy and ones outside of education altogether. For example:
  • In response to a challenge from Alexander Russo, I tweeted my then 13-year-old kid singing at a concert. That gave me a nice little Klout score boost. (By the way, Russo, I won that contest.)
  • There was also the time that I challenged Michelle Malkin when she attacked Teach For America. Her response to me boosted my Klout score 1.22 in a single day.
  • And there was the time when I pushed back against Montel Williams regarding his endorsement of predatory payday loans, and my exchanges with him were featured in TIME and Good Morning America. That gave my Klout score another healthy bump.
  • Here is the best one: four or five days before Petrilli completed compiling his lists, it was my birthday. I went up 2.13 points from that alone.
I understand Petrilli’s use of Klout. It is an easy to obtain metric, but in reality it is a faulty barometer at best. His use of followers as a second list is also problematic. High follower count can indicate “star power” or a vast membership base. But as Paige Kowalski pointed out , the value of the list is sparking conversation about voices and influence. Overwhelmingly, the folks on the lists look like me: white, middle-aged men. There are few women and people of color. Those who did not have the opportunity to get into a social-media spat with Montel Williams or Michelle Malkin give their all to improving the quality of education for all children. They do important research, stand in front of a classroom or help fellow parents advocate for their kids. They are outside of the bubble and are the true influencers in public education. It is time to listen to them and give them the credit that they are due. Do yourself a favor and take part in the conversations that people like Derrell Bradford, Chris Stewart, Laura Waters, Valentina Korkes, RiShawn Biddle, Dmitri Mehlhorn, Gwen Samuel and many others are having. They are bright folks , and they are shaping the future of public education. I applaud Petrilli’s efforts at addressing people’s concerns with the annual lists, but I urge him to either find a truly accurate way to measure influencers in education policy or dump the lists entirely. In their current state, they perpetuate inaccurate perceptions.  
André-Tascha G. R. Lammé currently serves as the director of digital engagement for StudentsFirst overseeing digital communications and web development.
A software engineer for over 20 years, André-Tascha currently serves as the director of digital engagement for StudentsFirst overseeing digital communications and web development. Previously, he has developed software and managed digital communications in diverse industries from agriculture to accounting to energy. A husband and a father, he resides ...

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