Perhaps discouraged by the refusal of NYC children to respond to financial incentives by actually performing better as opposed to just taking more tests, Dr. Fryer is returning to Boston to head something called the "Educational Innovation Laboratory" (see the splashy EdLabs website).
Dr. Fryer laments that billions are spent researching drugs and developing airplanes, while little is spent “to scientifically test educational theories.” Thus his friend, Eli Broad, (see picture above) and the Broad Foundation are helping him with the first $6 million of a $44 million, 3-year, “research and development initiative” that will have EdLabs “partner” with NYC’s Department of Education, the Chicago Public Schools, and the District of Columbia Public Schools.
In other words, the cheerleader-in-chief for market-oriented education strategies will evaluate the results of programs devised by ideologically aligned education officials, his own teams or even himself (such as the preposterous scheme to reward student performance with cell phones, which apparently has collapsed.). This passes as “rigorous research.”
When a drug company funds research to study the safety and efficacy of its own product, we have no difficulty understanding that conflict of interest is a problem and means the results are suspect. Imagine what credibility a drug study would have if the research team actually included drug company personnel! And would anyone even entertain the suggestion that the head of Philip Morris USA’s Youth Smoking Prevention Program should be included in any study of teenage smoking?
The incestuous relationships in this new initiative would not be tolerated in a scientific study involving drugs or other products. That the proposal is made with a straight face by people who are smart enough to know better shows the utter contempt they have for our children. This is fundamentally a business enterprise, not a serious attempt to evaluate educational strategies by standards that are applied to scientific research. Calling it a “lab” and putting it at Harvard doesn’t cleanse it of this taint.
And here’s the kicker for all us parents and taxpayers. The Broad Foundation is committing a mere $6 million in “jumpstart” funds--where do you suppose the other $38 million will come from? Need I say it? EdLabs’ sources of support include “the three participating school districts.”
-- Paola de Kock