Getting a Seat at the Table 2

There is an interesting comment thread over at Kitchen Table Math about the use of study groups or facilitated discussions in public education.

Here’s a taste:

From Steve H: “Our town calls them “charrettes”. They are a way to make the public think they have a say in something that has already been pre-decided.”

And, “A town will not pay for a study that might come up with a solution that disagrees with what they want. When our schools held a facilitated open house study for their five year strategic plan, so many fundamental assumptions (like full inclusion, curricula, and no TAG) were off the table that the process was virtually meaningless.”

From lgm: “My experience is the same as SteveH’s. Delphi method, and there will be shills in the audience…approximately one per small group.”

From gasstationwithoutpumps:

Catherine asked

“What our superintendent wants to do is hire a “consulting firm” to conduct focus groups all over town, produce a statistical analysis, and write goals for the new strategic planning process.

What would that run if you were hiring a real consulting firm, do you think?”

That depends on how much the friend that the superintendent wants to hire charges. I’m very dubious about managers who hire consultants to run focus groups to determine public opinion—it is the standard operating procedure in our small city, and it rarely leads to good results—either a very tiny, highly biased sample is made with questions carefully tailored to elicit what the consultant believes the group hiring them wants to hear, or there are large open meetings that get packed by one interest group.

Focus groups are generally used in industry to see whether a particular marketing campaign is likely to work, not to get at the truth of anything real.