Thursday, September 17, 2015

Two new additions to the Board of Ed (and one at least you should be concerned about)

Governor Baker announced his two new appointments to the Board of Ed yesterday.
The easy joke here for Sherlockians is Baker literally appointed Moriarity to the School Committee, and he's not the one we should be worried about. 

Michael Moriarity is a lawyer from Holyoke who currently is executive director of the Olde Holyoke Development Corporation. He taught social studies in junior high before attending law school. He served 13 years on the Holyoke School Committee (he's a Holyoke High alum.) and was a 2012 member of the MASC All-State School Committee.  He's a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association and headed Holyoke's Campaign for Grade Level Reading. He was blogging for awhile, but he hasn't recently.

Professor Roland Fryer is an economics professor at Harvard, with a compelling personal background; he heads the Education Innovation Laboratory (which the Broad Foundation helped start), which (among much else) was involved in a "turnaround" at one of Springfield's high schools until they abruptly pulled out with the following explanation:
EdLabs said its decision to pull out of Springfield had nothing to do with the district but with the state — and the inability to work in a larger set of schools.
 “We are proud of the work that Springfield Public Schools has done with EdLabs and of the accomplishments in Springfield schools,” said June Daniel, executive director at EdLabs.
The Globe article from which the quote comes was discussing the lack of success these external providers had with actually turning around schools.
I have been unable to find anything more about EdLabs suddenly pulling out of Springfield.

The front page of EdLabs claims "Schools alone have the power to overcome the learning obstacles of children in poverty and to close the racial achievement gap." He has released studies on such subjects as pay for performance for students and applying charter models to public education in general. Professor Baker analyzed a number of those last studies in 2012 and came to this conclusion:
Setting aside the exceptionally poor documentation behind any of the marginal expenditure or cost estimates provided in each and every one of these studies, throughout his various attempts to downplay the importance of financial resources for improving student outcomes, Roland Fryer and colleagues have made a compelling case for spending between 20 and 60% more on public schooling in poor urban contexts including New York City and Houston, TX.
emphasis in the original. What's particularly troubling is Fryer's assertion in the past that he found no correlation between school effectiveness and inputs like school spending, teacher certification or advanced degrees, or class size. To quote Baker on this:
Let’s be really clear here – simply testing the correlation between spending and an outcome measure – comparing higher and lower spending schools and their outcomes to see if the higher spending schools have higher effectiveness measures – WOULD TELL US LITTLE OR NOTHING, EVEN IF THE DATA WERE ACCURATE, PRECISE AND WELL DOCUMENTED. Which, by the way, they are not.
And I urge you to go read that post, because you know it's going to impact what is said at the Board of Ed.
Baker also questions Fryer's work on loss aversion (in rewarding teachers for higher student test scores) here.
Fryer has also done research on "acting white" and its possible impact on children of color; you can read his own words here; note that this argument ends up pointing back towards having segregated schools.
In 2012, Fryer gave a lecture regarding his work at EdLabs. He had this to say about standardized tests:
I haven't figured out why no one has tried a two-tiered system for standardized testing. So, I live in Concord, Massachusetts which is a wonderful suburb of Boston -- my wife and I just moved there -- and I actually don't want a lot of standardized testing in Concord because it will crowd out my kids learning Shakespeare and those types of things I never really read. However, in the schools that are failing, we really do need standardized tests because at least we know where they are and that's really, really important. Just because we don't test them doesn't mean they're not failing. And so I would actually say if schools are high-performing suburban schools or high-performing schools ought to be able to say, 'You know what? 90 percent passed the test in 2008, let's not take the test for 2 or 3 years so that we can focus on different and more holistic types of instruction'. For schools that are in the bottom, I think they ought to test those kids every day.
The Board of Ed next meets on Tuesday.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Thanks for this important background on the new Board members, Tracy. Sounds like we are "out of the frying pan, into the Fryer." Those of us interested in strengthening public ed have even more to do over the next few years.