Should Ideology Drive Research? We Need a Public, Transparent Organization That Will Examine, Analyze and Evaluate Our School System …


A question hovering over schools is the racial/ethnic achievement gap question … why are Afro American students, especially males, lagging behind other students, and, what can we do about it?
The New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) sponsored a “Closing the Gap” conference last fall with a range of national experts.
The question is not new, John Ogbu, a sociology professor, in a highly controversial study  pointed his finger at the black community.
The NYC DOE simply looks at schools, not students, and with their own disputed School Report Card, and tries to “measure” student progress from year to year. Critics claim the Report Card methodology is deeply flawed.
We must confront, research and answer any issues impacting on closing the achievement gap.
Does race/ethnicity of a teacher impact student achievement?
If it does, why is the number of Afro-American teachers in New York City declining? In a NY Sun article Elizabeth Green points to the sharp declines, with responses from the DOE and the union president.
The Tweed response to the achievement gap issue was to hire Harvard professor Roland Fryer to conduct a study of “incentives,” material rewards:  cell phone minutes and actual dollars for performance. Fryer is leaving his position in New York to take on larger role  … to run programs in New York, Chicago and Washington.
Dr. Fryer said the new institute would be able to identify what works so that educators across the country could prioritize their spending.

“We will have the willingness to try new things and be wrong — the type of humbleness to say, ‘I have no idea whether this will work, but I’m going to try,’ ” he said.

Can we trust researchers who are employed by a school system, and, whose research is not peer reviewed? Where do we draw the line between advocacy and research?

Yes, research and data should drive policy … unfortunately the Tweed ideologues believe the opposite … philosophy drives research, as long as it supports their ideology.

The Consortium on Chicago School Research has evaluated, analyzed and driven policy in Chicago school for twenty years. New York has recently embarked on the process, although it is in the early stages … and Joel Klein sits on the Board.

Roland Fryer is simply wrong … we have a pretty good idea of what works … we need a school district leader willing to implement proven policies, in a collaborative manner, with an outside organization analyzing the data in a public and transparent manner.

We’ve been experimenting on the poor and the powerless for too long.


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