08 October 2009

Side Effects

Derrion Albert was killed by Arne Duncan's Chicago School Reform Plan, Renaissance 2010.

I'm not saying Duncan murdered anyone. I'm not Rush Limbaugh. But I am saying that Albert was a victim of the side effects of Renaissance 2010 and Duncan's theories of urban education reform, just as a person who dies during a clinical drug trial has been killed by that drug.

Derrion Albert went to school in an a violent, gang-ridden neighborhood. And Derrion Albert went to a school which had been merged with another school after his neighborhood school had been closed because it was "failing" and reconstructed as a "magnet academy." This was our current Secretary of Education's "cure" for Chicago's Public Schools when he was in charge there. Thus Derrion, like tens of thousands of Chicago students, had to cross neighborhood lines and gang turf areas to get to and from school each day. He also had to attend a school filled with these kinds of turf battles. And like far too many of Chicago's students (it is now a national issue), he died as a result.

Derrion Albert was killed by Arne Duncan's Chicago School Reform Plan, Renaissance 2010.

The Schools Matter blog deals with all this in detail, and let's be clear that Duncan - just like a pharmaceutical corporation caught in the same situation - calls this charge "ridiculous," but facts are stubborn things, and educational leaders must stop their constant promotion of faux "gold standard" "medical model" school research unless they are willing to take on the attendant responsibility.

Social Science research rarely worries about side effects. And educational reforms never seem to come with those package warnings that drugs have, and this is why the entire research model hustled by the U.S. Department of Education and American Educational Research Association is dangerous, unethical, and nonsensical.

Oh sure, we understand that model - so sadly assembled in the book Scientific Research in Education - is fraudulent in every way. You can't mimic medical research without a double-blind procedure system - which is impossible in schools. But beyond that, you simply can not claim to be conducting scientific research on anything unless you are willing to consider the spectrum of results.

So, when Arne Duncan closed "failing" high schools in poor neighborhoods, he had an ethical responsibility - as a leader, as a researcher, as a human, to try to minimize the potential side-effect harm of his "cure." Merging neighborhood schools is tough everywhere, it is especially tough when you are crossing gang boundaries in a violent urban neighborhood. So, just as the maker of a new, say, flu vaccine, is ethically obligated to try to make sure he/she doesn't accidentally kill a bunch of people while saving others, so Arne Duncan was obligated to consider the risks, publish the risks, and mitigate the risks of his plan to "save" Chicago's high schools.

So, was this Duncan's Vioxx moment or his Tuskegee moment? Was he arrogant, careless, and pursuing personal gain at the expense of being cautious with children's lives or, was this a calculated opportunity to test his theories on the powerless?

"Community-based schools are what everybody strives for in the United States and they are disappearing, and that’s a sad thing," said someone in rural West Virginia in a New York Times article about school consolidation there. '"You have a trail of blood and tears ever since they launched (Renaissance 2010)," said Tio Hardiman, director of the anti-violence organization CeaseFire Illinois. "There's a history of violence associated with moving kids from one area to another,"' says the School Matters blog. In other words, the dangers are known, and a responsible person does not conduct a mass experiment like this without considering, publishing, and attempting to mitigate the risks/dangers.

Did he rush forward because of an arrogant belief in his own science? Or his desperation for personal political capital? Or did he simply think these poor Black kids were the ones to experiment on?

We probably won't ever know. I didn't hear Eric Holder suggest an investigation of his fellow cabinet member yesterday in Chicago.

But we do know that this is a constant disaster in educational research - and in educational practice. We "academize" kindergarten and first grade and kids can't do basic science any more. We devote extra hours to reading instruction and kids get fat. We tighten standards and more kids must be labeled disabled. We drill certain reading sub-skills and teach young kids to hate books. We insist on college prep curriculum and make a huge percentage of kids miserable. We adopt zero tolerance policies and throw the kids who need school the most out on the street.

So, if Arne Duncan's Renaissance 2010 was "gold standard" "medical model" research his plan would have been "pulled off the shelves" a year ago due to disastrous side effects. There'd be Congressional investigations and massive lawsuits. But it hasn't been. Which proves the point:

"Scientific Research in Education" is a lie. "Evidence-based Practice" is always based on insufficient evidence. And we need a new research paradigm to help us move forward and to protect our children.

Derrion Albert was killed by Arne Duncan's Chicago School Reform Plan, Renaissance 2010. And we must insist that "reformers" find ways to do less damage in the future.

- Ira Socol


lisa said...

you wrote a powerful article, but you did et your message across

learn quran said...

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