2006_11_guineapig.jpgParents and critics are railing against various research projects at schools, studies which were approved by the Department of Education. While children are included in the studies with parental consent, the Post reports that there are "'modest cash payments' to parents and teachers and gift certificates for kids," leading one parent to say, "We have a laboratory of guinea pigs. The Department of Education markets our kids like they're a piece of meat."

The Post described one study in detail:

Maria Kromidas of Columbia Teachers College is doing a project about "Children and Race in New York City" by observing kids in a Queens elementary school with a largely immigrant student base. She wants to find out how children of different races get along.

A previous study Kromidas conducted with fourth-graders at PS 214 in Brooklyn following 9/11 found South Asian immigrants were subjected to vicious racism by Latino and black classmates.

Kromidas, a former teacher at the school, found that kids linked people from Bangladesh with terror.

"The bulk of the responses from the non-Muslim students were frightening to me," Kromidas wrote in the study.

She questions students during "everyday activities" and lets them "take the conversation wherever they wish to go."

While it's unclear whether there's harm in having an researcher speak to students, the studies do seem interesting and valid. How else will educators learn about students' patterns of behavior and perceptions?

However, it is a bit disturbing, as the Alliance for Human Research Protection alleges, that another Columbia study looked at psychotherapy effectiveness in public school students and participants were given invitations to receive "psychotropic" drugs. The DOE tells the Post, "Our children are not guinea pigs. The research is carefully vetted."