Thursday, September 6, 2007

Parents, No Seat at This Table

Hard on the heels of Erin Einhorn’s stories this week in the Daily News questioning whether NYC public school students’ progress from 2002 to 2007 in the NY State math exams for 4th Graders is a result of easier test questions comes an announcement today from Chancellor Klein’s office. A new organization called the Research Partnership for New York City Schools has been formed with a charter to review data provided by the DOE and verify operational and student performance results through independent analysis. The new group will be privately funded by ten foundations and has pledged to maintain independence in its analysis and reporting.

Not surprisingly, the Research Partnership’s oversight board consists almost exclusively of people with close ties to the DOE and vested interests in the research and analysis outcomes. Chancellor Klein’s and UFT President Randi Weingarten’s presence on the board alone creates conflicts of interest, and these are furthered by the presence of Robert Hughes (New Visions for Public Schools) and Kathryn Wylde (Partnership for NYC, and already a Board Member of the DOE’s private sector-funded Leadership Academy and the conservative think tank The Manhattan Institute).

The first and most basic rule of auditing is arms length independence from the organization being audited. Where is the independence here? Even more disconcerting, where are the real independent voices? Where are Betsy Gotbaum, Diane Ravitch, Alfred Posamentier, Sol Stern, or a host of others from the NYU, Columbia, or Bank Street Schools of Education? And where are the parents representatives: CEC Presidents such as Tim Johnson or David Bloomfield, parent advocates like Leonie Haimson, or just interested and capable parent representatives? Reflecting the Chancellor’s continued policy of ignoring and dismissing NYC public school parents, he could not even bring himself to include Martine Guerrier, the DOE’s so-called new “Chief Family Engagement Officer.”

As Sol Stern points out in today’s Daily News article, “The whole thing is a fraud…it will have the illusion of objectivity.” Likely he’s correct. It seems the head fox has just recruited another set of foxes to verify independently their positive progress in the hen house. And once again, the message to parents is clear: “You have no seat at this table.”


Anonymous said...

The Social Science Research Council has been working carefully and deliberately for two years to develop a Research Partnership for New York City Schools. Contrary to the mischaracterization of these efforts contained in a recent New York Daily News article, the effort is not intended in any way to serve as an “auditing agency.” Rather our efforts are devoted to creating a new public good for the city that would achieve two primary goals: 1), to conduct ongoing rigorous evaluation and assessment of educational outcomes that will serve as a guide to ongoing school improvement efforts; and 2), to create a data archive that will increase accessibility of educational data to researchers and the public, while simultaneously protecting the confidentiality and privacy rights of students in our schools.

The effort to put this new public good in place has been broad based and inclusive. It has involved dozens of the most respeceted social science researchers in the city who are committed to conducting rigorous and relevant applied research on educational outcomes that can inform policy, practice and public understanding. It includes a Research Advisory Board comprised of leading national scholars with expertise in conducting research of this character. While still in its formative stage, our efforts have explicitly involved steps to engage community organizations to provide input into the research priorities of the emerging organization and we are expecting to broaden membership of our Governance Board in coming months. We are grateful that key educational stakeholders in the city have been open and willing to serve as founding member of our Board – as a partnership committed to increasing the production of rigorous and relevant research requires such support. We have been deeply committed to transparancy and openness in building an organization to focus and enhance applied research that will inform policy makers, practitioners and the public. More information on our initiative can be found at

We are planning an innaugural conference to introduce this initiative to the broader public on October 5. At that time, more information will be made available that describes our initiative’s history, goals and current activities in greater detail. As a public school parent, former public school teacher and social science researcher deeply committed to this initiative, I hope that political skepticism can be set aside and collaborative efforts can be constructively joined that will serve to put this new public good into place.

Richard Arum,
SSRC Project Director
(Professor of Socilogy and Education, NYU)

Patrick Sullivan said...

Richard Arum says "We are grateful that key educational stakeholders in the city have been open and willing to serve as founding member of our Board".

In NYC we have elected parent bodies with statutory responsibility to represent parents and advise the schools chancellor on matters of policy. It's a shame none have been included in this effort, especially given the documented history of research abuses against public school children and the growing erosion of data privacy. The governance board appears to have been selected with the goal of addressing the concerns of the various unaccountable foundations funding the effort while our children are relegated to the status of research subjects.

Despite all the lofty prose from Professor Arum, parents still don't have a seat at the table.