Orfield could be catalyst that unifies Buffalo School factions

Buffalo School Board of Education

By: Mike Madigan

Activist Gary Orfield is currently investigating Buffalo Public Schools. The investigation was initiated as a result of several Buffalo parents’ complaints regarding segregation and potential related civil rights concerns focused on the five criterion based schools and their student entrance selection/exclusion process.

Programs Orfield advocates for include social promotion of minority students (LINK), busing and other forms of mandated desegregation programs (LINK).

In the 70’s Orfield advocated for forced busing and after its inception he used the forced busing programs as a large social experiment to study its impact on those in the program.

The children being bused were Orfield’s all too frequent unwilling guinea pigs for his studies. Many of these children suffered negative outcomes due to the breakdown of community and parental involvement in schools. It was well documented that these programs increased rather than decreased tension between races.

Orfield’s assumption was and continues to be that seating a white student next to a black student improves educational outcomes. Significant studies show that busing had more negative and few if any positive outcomes. Remarkably, in 1992 Orfield himself, who continues to this day to support and defend busing, “found black and Hispanic students lacked “even modest overall improvement” as a result of court-ordered busing”. (LINK) 

Orfield advocates against Charter schools, which he surprisingly feels unfairly target blacks for enrollment in order to segregate and isolate them. Similarly, Orfield strongly opposes neighborhood schools for the same reason he opposes Charters.

The Buffalo school community needs to be made aware of who this person is and what he advocates for before he releases his findings. There have been complaints filed against him related to alleged misconduct regarding how he manipulates data in order to draw his pre-determined conclusions.

The concern regarding Orfield being an advocate rather than an unbiased researcher/investigator is validated in his complaint letter regarding Carl Paladino (LINK) where he indicates clearly that he is still in the early phases of some data collection but has already drawn certain conclusions. Orfield ominously states in this letter “Some patterns are becoming very apparent.”

No unbiased scientific researcher would permit themselves to make such claims during data collection. Such a statement suggests a strong bias and after having made such a claim he will now have to support it through the data he collects.

Most scientists would argue that Orfield’s complaint letter and associated claim during the early data collection phase shifts his methods from following valid “scientific methods” to biased research. Such activity by Orfield greatly increases the risks of selectively choosing data to make his case for his “very apparent patterns”.

Reading of the past complaints against Orfield and review of his studies demonstrate he is frequently not an unbiased researcher but rather a biased advocate for causes that use selected data to make his case on certain issues.

Review of Orfield’s background suggests that the BOE failed in properly vetting this individual and a re-vetting should be considered by all parties involved (both the minority and majority may find very real concerns in their review).

Contrary to his claim in his complaint letter (link), Orfield indeed has a repeated history of conflicts with the people and communities he is charged with researching and or investigating. Orfield has been challenged by his peers and others for alleged unethical data manipulation and alleged research misconduct.

When being confronted with a serious concern the first step in resolution of such concerns starts with awareness.

The Buffalo community needs to be made aware of these very real concerns which can impact all factions. Such awareness may actually unify these factions in their efforts to prevent this person from influencing BPS’s future direction.