R&D for Education

By Liana Loewus — September 26, 2008 1 min read
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With companies spending billions to ensure the health and safety of products before they reach the market, one Harvard economist is puzzled that little is spent on researching educational theories before they reach our kids, according to The New York Times. Instead, says Roland G. Fryer, Jr., too many districts are using the blind approach when it comes to implementing school policies and plans. “If the doctor said to you, ‘You have a cold; here are three pills my buddy in Charlotte uses and he says they work,’ you would run out and find another doctor,” Fryer told the newspaper. “Somehow, in education, that approach is O.K.”

Fryer quit his job as the chief equality officer of the New York City public schools to start the Educational Innovation Laboratory, a $44 million project funded by the Broad Foundation that aims to bring the data-driven business and science approach to education.

Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C. public school districts will participate in the research, beginning by testing the effect of incentives on achievement. According to Education Week, a small study done previously at Stanford University suggests that giving students incentives such as cash or cell phone minutes for good grades may boost achievement in reading.

“We will have the willingness to try new things and be wrong — the type of humbleness to say, ‘I have no idea whether this will work, but I’m going to try,’ ” Fryer says.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.