I first learned about Roland Fryer, Jr., a Harvard economist, when he devised an experiment to pay students for raising test scores in several cities, which failed. Subsequently, he seemed to be involved in other such experiments where the methodology always involved incentives for teachers or students to get higher scores. Here is an outside review of the merit pay plan he designed for New York City. Another of his less-than-successful incentive plans was called “loss aversion.” It works like this: the district gives teachers a $4,000 bonus at the start of the school year; if scores go up, they keep it. If scores don’t go up, they give the money back.
That gave me an idea: how about “loss aversion” for economists? If their predictions are wrong, their computer is confiscated. Or their pay is cut. Or they lose a digit on one finger.
Mercedes Schneider decided to learn more about Fryer after learning that Charlie Baker, the Republican governor, had appointed Fryer to the State Board of Education. The state is on the verge of deciding whether to stick with its MCAS state tests or switch to PARCC. The State Commissioner of Education for Massachusetts, Mitchell Chester, is chair of the PARCC Governing Board. Gosh, I wonder which test they will choose?
Schneider wondered, who is Roland Fryer, Jr.
She writes that Fryer was “promoted from assistant professor to full professor after a single year on the Harvard University faculty (and skipping right over associate professor, to boot).
“Fryer is also the faculty director of Harvard University-based EdLabs, which describes itself as just a helpful group of individuals with no agenda:”
Here is their agenda:
We are an eclectic collection of scientists, educators, and implementers with diverse backgrounds and vast experience, generating ideas and implementing experiments that have the potential to transform education.
Edlabs has no political affiliation or agenda to promote. We squeeze truths from data. People may not always like what we discover, but we will disseminate our results no matter what we find.
Sounds good, yes?
But then she checked out EdLab’s associates and funding, and almost every notable reformer group was there.
Among his advisors: Joel Klein, Condoleeza Rice, and Eli Broad.
Among his funders: the usual suspects. You can guess, or read the post.
Schneider reports on one of Fryer’s ideas to close the achievement gap: don’t test the affluent districts (like the one he lives in), because it would leave less time for reading Shakespeare; but test the poor kids daily.
As I have said on more than one occasion, tests are a measure, not an educational intervention. They measure gaps, they don’t close them. If you have a fever, you can find out how high it is with a thermometer, but taking your temperature again and again will not lower your fever.