District Attacks Harvard Study

The administration of a Maryland school district this week blasted a Harvard study which found fault with its integration record.

Paul L. Vance, superintendent of Montgomery County public schools, criticized a study conducted under the auspices of Professor of Education and Social Policy Gary A. Orfield for factual inaccuracies, poor logic and important omissions.

Susan E. Eaton, who wrote most of the study and is an honorary visiting scholar at the Schelesinger Library, said Vance's criticism is an attempt to draw attention from the district's problems. She acknowledged the factual inaccuracies, but justified them by emphasizing that the report is a preliminary study, not intended for public debate.

"What they're criticizing is a draft copy that was leaked," Eaton said yesterday.

The central argument of the report, entitled a "Montgomery County Case Study," is that the policies of a school district undergoing integration on its own--that is, without order from court decisions or explicit laws--may have limited effects on demographic change.

The report said such policies may not prevent pockets of segregation and poverty.

Last month, Eaton said she sent a

copy of the preliminary report to Vance inMaryland so he could review it for factual errors.

At some points, the study was leaked to theWashington Post, which ran an article about it.Orfield and Eaton both charged that someone inMaryland released the report; Brain J. Porter, aspokesperson for the district, said yesterday thatsomeone in Cambridge did.

Vance wrote a letter to Eaton and Orfield,dated July 1, that was released to the Post thisweek.

In it, the superintendent wrote that the paperreflects "more of an 'advocacy research' approachto this topic rather than unbiased scholarlyresearch."

"I was disappointed by the sheer lack ofsufficient perspective, comprehension and analysisrequired to evaluate an issue so complex andsensitive," Vance wrote.

"We believe your paper reflects a fundamentalmisunderstanding of desegregation efforts of theMontgomery County Public Schools, Vance wrote.

In particular, Vance charged Eaton and Orfieldwith overlooking demographic changes in thecommunity.

The superintendent also chastised the Harvardresearchers for "virtually ignoring" three Boardof Education policies which he said demonstratethe district's commitment to desegregation,diversity and education.

"If social science is to work, itspractitioners must go about it in an objectiveway," spokesperson Porter said yesterday. "This isnot occurring at the moment."

Eaton and Orfield both said Vance's is aclassic response from a district administratorcriticized for ineffective integration policies.

Eaton said that there would be many changeswhen the final copy is released--including somesuggested by the Montgomery Schools. Eaton saidthat many of the errors were left in and notdouble-checked precisely because the report wasonly a first draft.

Eaton said she thought the letter was areaction to the leak.

"Instead of sending us back a response thatwould have offered clear recommendations, [Vance,]without offering serious arguments, proceeded towrite a letter to me full of random insults andattacks," Eaton said.

"It was a piece of propaganda whose solepurpose was trying to deflect attention from thereport," Eaton said. "There was nothingparticularly useful in there to make the reportmore accurate."

Vance did describe the omitted programs at somelength in his letter.

But Eaton said the policies "aren't terriblysubstantial in desegregating."

Eaton also said she didn't think the report wasunfair or biased.

"In my opinion, they're overreacting to areport that states the obvious," Eaton said.

"The primary mission of this report is not toupset the people in Montgomery County," she said."[If a county] lets a school district do what itwants, it may not be the best road [tointegration].