So, yesterday evening, I got a forwarded email that said the following:
“Engage Research is conducting a paid research study for mothers of traditional public school children in Washington, DC on Tuesday, January 10, 2016. The group will take place at 5:30 pm and will last 2 hours. You will receive an honorarium of $125 before you leave the study. The topic of the study is education. If you or anyone you know is interested, please contact me at your earliest convenience. Thank you and have a great day.”
Sounds good: $125 for 2 hours! Sure, they don’t say you can bring the kiddos along, but hey, if you are a DCPS parent, and a mom to boot, you certainly know how to balance stuff.
So just who is doing this–and why?
Ah, now there’s a rabbit hole:
Turns out that the group who was actually hired to do this research is not Engage Research, but Russell Research, in New Jersey.
I spoke to someone there who noted that because of concerns about the impartiality of the study, he could not tell me who hired Russell for this purpose, but that they are seeking people who may “qualify” for the focus group.
When I asked him how one qualifies, he said that the message above was not well worded and that people should really call Ms. Angles first, to find out if they qualify–then show up if they are determined to qualify, depending on how they answer questions posed by Ms. Angles.
He also noted that Russell’s client is starting an “initiative” that involves educating the public about charter schools and determining better ways to communicate about charter schools.
For which they need DCPS mothers–naturally.
To find out if anyone locally was sponsoring this “research,” I called the DC public charter school board; FOCUS; and the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools. No one I spoke to at those organizations said they had any knowledge of this.
I also emailed the office of the deputy mayor for education–no word yet.
Now, this is all most interesting:
–What happens if a parent shows up and doesn’t in the end “qualify”? Do they get a cut of the $125 just for showing up? (BTW, I just received an email that the study was already full–so much for my personal education windfall.)
–To what end will the thoughts and words of those “qualified” individuals be put—and by whom? (Or is merely asking this question a case of looking an employer (erm, gift horse) in the mouth?)
–And, if the folks behind this cannot get the communication better on this focus group, how confident should we be that they will do better when they are communicating about the public charter schools that we the people fund on their behalf?
–Or is not communicating the whole point, given that there are already plenty of DC charter school parents who could school them on this point quite ably?
–Or is the real purpose communicating to a non-charter audience (i.e., DCPS parents), perhaps to increase enrollment at charter schools? (To be fair, we already have a proposal to do just that being rolled out, starting that same night–why pay more?)
So many questions, so little time.