The redistricting process happening with the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) continues to get local, regional and national news coverage…this time with WBAL 11 (out of Baltimore) on October 6th:

Pat Warr-Marshall was on the show defending the current plan while Dr. Hemant Sharma was on the show opposing the plan. I personally like the fact that they had people talking about this issue on both sides…and doing it in a really good way with each other.

It is a very interesting discussion and one worth listening to…so be sure to give it a listen:

One thing is for sure…this conversation is not going away between now and November 21st. One can hope that every discussion is as good as this one was on TV (I know that is not realistic…but we can all hope).

The Howard County Board of Education will continue to hear testimony tonight as part of the “Overflow Public Hearings(Families currently zoned for Glenelg HS, Marriotts Ridge HS, Reservoir HS, River Hill HS) starting at 6:00pm. There are 108 people signed up to testify tonight.

Scott E

(note – image is a screen shot from the show from online videos)


  1. I have no position on this, other than it could affect my property value and taxes. (all my kids are out of the HoCo school system)

    However, every time I hear this topic come up, it makes me think that gov’t officials (county exec., county council and bd of ed) think they know what is best for people. Even though, the tax paying citizens do not want it.

  2. I also don’t have a dog in this race. But, I am a tax paying citizen, and I want it. Moreover, I believe there are many more of us out there than those you see in the protests or in the public hearings who oppose it. The arguments about sleep deprivation, community and mental health, though based on empirical evidence, ring hollow for me. That’s just my opinion. Whereas the equally empirically based evidence also shows the disadvantaged student performance improves when placed with more advantaged, affluent students – and here is the kicker — without any negative impact on the advantaged student’s scores. Not so hollow IMO. So, I stand with the redistricting plan.

    Yes, the parent has the greatest influence. Yes, housing development went astray. We can still work on these components. But I still stand behind this plan, or a similar plan, and with the disadvantaged student.

    • How are the studies you have seen explained the “magical” effect of mixing affluent kids and disadvantage kids? Besides we see a correlation on the big data level, what is the underlining reason for observing, on average, an increase in performance in disadvantage kids, and on average, no decrease in performance in affluent kids? Without understanding the reason behind these observation, what we are doing are here are basically a roll on dice and hope this works. Average improvement as a whole could mean some kids go up as well as some go down. Other reasons for “improvement” could be the evaluation standards changed or lowered. I recommend that you research this area a little more and you will see why this types of desegregation studies have flaws and there are better ways of improving gaps. I recommend a summary article posted on Forbes recently to get you started,

      • TL;DR – I mostly agree, especially about the data.

        Good question. The authors of the studies to which I referred DID attempt to explain the effect. But could not prove the exact cause within their study. And of course, as always, suggested more study. The gist of the explanation is that people generally try to help people, especially if they know them, have some sort of relationship with them and understand the need. So this might result in more study groups, greater natural mentoring, a well stocked and free school supply closet, greater volunteerism, more affluence to support after school programs and more shared rides home for after school tutoring – type things. But like I said – more study is needed to nail down the specifics. No “magic” was found, and just old fashioned caring by those with greater resources was suspected.

        You are correct. The closest we can get to the truth is in that data. Moreover, the variables and dimensions of the HoCo education problem are finite and limited over 50K students per year – really, not that big in the big data world. However, HoCo has no where near the in-house mathematical big data expertise to do the analysis. Nor can they look at the data without bias. Remarkably, our county residents DO have the expertise, and could make quick work of the challenge, but cannot get at the data because of FERPA restrictions. See as an example Dr. Richard Kohn’s wordpress website: I myself have made many failed Public Information Requests for the data via the MPIA application on the HCPSS website. As it stands now, without open data, only a 3rd party educational institution, with appropriately funded and approved research, could take on the task. Not likely. Additionally, the paradigm of using data to answer a specific research question is very different than the art of allowing big data to reveal the knowledge it holds outside of the confines of a question. If given free reign and open access, in my experience, sometimes the data will simply to talk to you without prompting, about relationships you didn’t know existed. I had also previously tried and failed to get some movement in the open data direction:

        You are correct. The educational system as a whole, nationwide, slaps spaghetti on a wall to see what sticks. I agree it is often a roll of the dice. Their understanding of data, statistics, measurement, metrics, test cases, quality assurance or continuous improvement is absolutely rudimentary. Moreover, there exists zero third party oversight. They often tout their use of research based solutions, such as that used in reading interventions, but they do not apply the solutions with the fidelity required by the research. They say they do, but they don’t and no one can prove otherwise – because there is no ongoing, 3rd party oversight and measurement. It is all self-reported – except for the data captured in the standardized tests – details about which are restricted from review. For example, try to ask HCPSS, through MPIA, how, when and where students taking a specific type of reading intervention move from a Level 3 on the PARCC to a Level 4, and by the way please separate this data by school and grade level in that school. They will literally say MPIA does not require them to provide that level of detail; and/or they don’t have the resources to provide that information. Then request the raw data, because the community can probably analyze the data better anyhow – and they will respond they can’t provide the raw data because of FERPA. The data is totally locked up.

        Those who are against the redistricting plan, and are yet genuinely concerned about the disadvantaged student might alternately want try to solve this data access and analysis problem. I couldn’t do it. Frankly, I believe many solutions to many yet unknown problems are within that data. Some of the problems are already known but only to HCPSS, and are accidentally or otherwise hidden.

        Thank you very much for your kind suggestion, however I prefer to consider only scholarly research so that I can try to assess the validity of the purported science. Summaries in all media are rife with opinion and spin. Most honestly, so is the research – just less so. That is why I also take the time to read the referenced scholarly articles in the bibliography of the original research. In the end, the truth is hard to define. The relative value of said truth even harder to assess and ends up somewhat personal.

        The doctor in the video referenced making decisions based on empirical evidence. I was only asserting that there also exists plenty of empirical evidence that supports the counter point. I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind. If you reread what I said, I made sure to stress the opinion was my own, based on my own research, assessment and values. I try to avoid the “backfire affect” as much as possible.

        I’m not sure, but I think you might be unaware of the phenomena. Simply search for the “backfire effect” to get a simple explanation. In addition, if you are similar to me, I recommend these two scholarly articles to get you started:
        Nyhan B and Reifler J (2010) When corrections fail: The persistence of political misperceptions. Political Behavior 32(2): 303ā€“330.
        Nyhan B and Reifler J (2015) Does correcting myths about the flu vaccine work? An experimental evaluation of the effects of corrective information. Vaccine 33(3): 459ā€“464.

        In the end, and since we can’t get access to the data, we must rely on our own ability to think as critically as we can, fight against our own biases, be persuadable and also persuade without a backfire. I am satisfied with the level of diligence I applied when I came to my own conclusions. I have yet to be persuaded to think otherwise. I am sure you did the same.

        So sorry. I guess I’ve had things on my mind and unfortunately for ScottE’s Blog, had time to express them.

  3. It’s also about property values and “no go zones” in the county. Just like schools that are reflective of the social economic status of the surrounding neighborhood, the neighborhood suffers when lower performance schools are concentrated to certain sides of the county. When poor performance and results are concentrated, it drags down the whole area, therefore the whole area’s economic status suffers. In this case of redistricting, a rising tide (HoCo affluence) lifts all boats. This concept works for all socioeconomic groups in the area.

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