Thursday, February 2, 2012

Town Hall - Roland Fryer

Who knew an economist could be so funny and so entertaining?  Yesterday at the Ringling College Library Association's Town Hall lecture we were treated to an interesting and informative discussion on the "path-breaking research and development in the field of education" by Harvard University professor, Roland Fryer.  He is the faculty director and principal investigator at the Educational Innovation Laboratory at Harvard (EdLabs).  At the age of 30 (he's 34 now - the same age as my youngest daughter - yikes!), he became the youngest African-American ever to receive tenure at Harvard.

Roland Fryer - photo from the Pittsburgh Gazette
His mission is trying to understand and fix America's failing schools.  He envisions a fair and reasonable chance for all kids to attain the American dream.  He had quite a painful childhood, which he told a little about during the lecture, and said he wanted to make the journey he went through worth it - to make it mean something.

He has done studies at various schools including Harlem's Children's Zone and Houston Public Schools.  What has he learned from his experiments?  Here are his five tenants of highly successful schools:

1.  Increased instructional time - spend more time in school
2.  Use small group, high-dosage tutoring
3.  Get frequent teacher feedback
4.  Use data driven instruction for what each child needs
5.  Culture and expectation - kids will live up or down according from what is expected of them - aim high

Professor Fryer's experiments have shown that traditional solutions like class-size, per pupil expenditure, and the number of teachers with advanced degrees are not resulting in academic achievement.  He said, "We are out of excuses.  The time is now.  Don't give in or give up.  The students are worth our investment."

I have just touched on a small part of what he shared with us.  What do I recommend you do?  Google Roland Fryer and read what you can about him and his work. I usually google the person I am writing about to make sure I have correctly captured what they said at the lecture.  When  I did this last night, I ended up reading about him for two hours!  I was fascinated and you will be, too.

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