Educational consultant Willard Daggett was paid
nearly 10,000 to speak in Grosse Pointe during the
1998-99 school year.
[For a list of Daggett’s fictitious claims and the Facts see last page of this article]
In November 1998, people sat in amazement as they listened to educational consultant Willard Daggett tell them about marvelous new inventions and findings that will transform their world. They were equally apprehensive when Daggett warned them how United States schools are not preparing students for this new technological-based world.
The problem with Daggett, Cognitive Psychologist Gerald Bracey said, is that he made up many facts used to support his contentions.
“Absolutely nothing this man says can be trusted,” Bracey wrote in a letter to Grosse Pointe North Principal Caryn Wells. “Clearly he simply can’t help himself with his fantasies. The man lied through his teeth telling the audience fantasies that they had no way of checking.”
Bracey, who lives in suburban Washington, D. C., said because Daggett’s “facts” were so numerous and many of them were without sources, it would not be difficult for unknowing school officials to be taken.
“He is so specific; he is so concrete. Most administrators wouldn’t be in a position to challenge him,” said Bracey. “He is terribly dangerous. He teaches people the wrong things.”
Wells and other administrators had seemingly little reason to question Daggett’s expertise. Daggett worked with Governor John Engler and the Michigan Legislature on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP), said Renee McGrady, who works in the Governor’s Constituency Service office.
Daggett has also served as the General Consultant to the Raising Expectations to Meet Real-World Needs school reform initiative in Texas, according to state records. His firm, the International Center for Leadership in Education, Rexford, N.Y., also coordinated the Model Schools Project Status Report in Michigan in1994.
In addition, Daggett has spoken to audiences throughout the country, everywhere from Florida to Idaho, and has worked as a consultant with numerous businesses. The Albertson Foundation paid Daggett $175,000 to come to Idaho for a series of speeches to educators. Albertson Foundation Communications Office Chris Ladder said.
“He ((Daggett)) did the job he was asked to do, he did a good job,” said Ladders. ‘Idaho educators liked his message.”
Hernando County schools in Florida paid Daggett $8,000 for a day-long speech in August 1998, according to an “Investor’s Business Daily” article about Daggett.
“His message was well received here in the state of Florida,” said Ron Schildbach, technology president of Hermando County’s School to Career Program. “It was the best in-service we have had. We were not impressed with the statistics; we were impressed with the message. I am going to back Dr. Daggett 100 percent.”
Both Ladder and Schildbach said they were not too concerned with Daggett’s specifics, but were rather more concerned with his message.
For example, Daggett said in his speech to North students, “We are the only industrialized nation on the face of the Earth that thinks that you teach biology and chemistry as separate courses. Biochemistry universally, across the globe, is seen as one in the same.”
Henry Duckworth, a biochemist at the University of Manitoba, however, said Canada teaches chemistry and biology separately.
“High schools are doing right to teach chemistry as such (separate), so that students get the basics before they turn to the vastly more complex molecules that you have to deal with in biochemistry,” said Duckworth.
In Addition, Kazuo Tachibana, a chemistry professor at the University of Tokyo, said Japan also teaches chemistry and biology separately. England also teaches chemistry and biology separately.
Daggett further extended his argument by saying the United States is isolated from the international community because most US schools do not require physics to graduate from high school, while 79 other nations require at least one year of physics to graduate.
David Robitaille, international coordinator of the Third International Math and Science Study and a professor at the University of British Columbia, contradicted Daggett’s assertion. He said he knew of few nations that required physics to graduate from high school.
Visit to Grosse Pointe
Bracey said the merits of some of Daggett’s message could be debated, but his entire message is called into question when he uses fictitious studies and unverifiable statistics.
For example, to illustrate how American students quickly lose what they are taught, Daggett cited a massive Harvard study.
“Harvard just completed, for the second year in a row, a study of 2,1000 high schools across the country,” Daggett said to the North faculty.
“They took the top two ranking academic students ((who had graduated the previous year) from those 2,100 high schools; they asked those top two students-2,100 high schools, 4,200 kids in total–to sit with the ninth graders in the same building as the ninth graders took their final exams last spring in three courses; social studies, math and science. Eight-eight percent of those kids failed two of the three.”
Douglas Winsor, special assistant to the dean at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, said he could not find the study.
“How can this audience know that his story about Harvard bringing the top graduates back to take tests is a total confabulation?” Bracey wrote in a letter to school officials. “The mere invocation of the word ‘Harvard’ gives figment credibility. He’s as charismatic as he is dishonest.”
Former US Assistant Secretary of Education Chester Finn said education consultants are common. He said there is little quality control and it is easy for school officials to be taken. “A lot of it (educational consulting) is a scam, because the people who get hired don’t really know much or don’t meet the needs they are being hired to address or, in a few cases, are themselves frauds,” said Finn. “There’s so much emphasis in the field (education) on ‘professional development’ and ‘in-service,’ and so many dollars rolling around for those purposes that it’s easy for this racket to flourish.
“I know he (Daggett) is popular on the circuit, but I’ve heard and read several reports that lead me to have misgivings about what he delivers. One of the problems in this field is people who tell audiences what the audience wants to hear rather than the truth. This leads to much applause and positive reviews and big bucks, but I don’t think it leads to any improvements in American education.”
According to district records, the district paid Daggett $9,222.65 for the series of speeches on November 4, 1998. Bracey wrote sarcastically in his letter to Wells, “I will come and se things straight for half that.”
Wells said the North faculty liked Daggett’s message that all learning needs to be relevant to students and that “most people won’t remember the fine points,” but rather will remember the message. Her comments echoed those of Lader and Schidbach. Her comments echoed those of Ladder and Schildbach.
In response to Bracey’s contentions, Wells sent a letter to Daggett requesting him to respond the charges. She said she was satisfied with Daggett’s response to the questions Bracey raised and thought Daggett was making an “honest effort” to correct any misinformation.
In his response, Daggett did correct some information and apologized for errors made in the speeches.
Contrary to Wells, however, Bracey said he thought Daggett’s response was inadequate.
“He dodged,” said Bracey. “He didn’t address the issue at all.”
Bracey said he was also displeased with the response he received form Wells and other district officials and said those responses were “terribly inconsequential.” He said he got the feeling they wanted him to “please go away.”
“I have been appalled by the reaction of the administration of Grosse Pointe, especially with the reputation the district has,”” said Bracey. “They (district officials) are in a hard position, (but) they should have come forth and said, ‘we blew it.'”
One Administrator’s Concerns
Bracey said, however, one top district official did contact him about his work. Assistant Superintendent Susan Allan thanked Bracey for attempting to correct misinformation given by Daggett in a private e-mail correspondence. “Thank you very much for the information that you’ve provided to our staff,” Allan wrote to Bracey. ‘I had reservations about Mr. Daggett’s talk and checked some items with my husband (a professor of natural resources at the U of Michigan) who confirmed my thoughts.
“It’s truly unfortunate that the important points of helping students develop technological skills and rethinking our education systems is being muddied by someone playing fast and loose with information. We appreciate your efforts to set the record straight.”
Consultant Defends Himself
In response to Bracey’s charges, Daggett wrote to district officials that Bracey has a past history of attacking people with whom he disagrees.
To support his contention, Daggett provided a list of people who Bracey has attacked, one of whom was William Raspberry, a columnist with the “Washington Post.”
Raspberry said, however, that he never felt attacked by Bracey and said he was “close to brilliant.” In addition, Raspberry said he found Bracey reliable and his information accurate.
Daggett wrote that Bracey’s attacks are “a classic case of ‘If you don’t like the message, attack the messenger.’ Dr. Bracey sees himself as the great protector of the status quo in education.”
Daggett said his speeches are meant to challenge audiences’ assumptions by making predictions about the future and what students will be required to know to succeed.
He said he regrets any statistical errors he made in his speeches, and it is unfortunate such errors shift attention away from the central issue.
“I wish I had been clearer on some of the statistics I used, but I still stand firmly behind my message,” said Daggett. “His (Bracey’s) attacks may have been a distraction for some people, but they have not undermined the validity of my message.”
Former South Principal and Educational Consultant John Artis said he thought Bracey’s attacks of Daggett were unfair. He said he was certain if he looked over all of Bracey’s work like Bracey had looked over Daggett’s, he could find errors.
Artis said he thought Daggett does good work and said he is very respected in his field.
Unlike Bracey, Daggett said his correspondence with district officials have been positive, and they have handled the controversy in a very professional manner. He said he looks forward to continuing his positive relationship with the district.
Most recently an article appeared in the April 11 edition of “The Washington Post,” which featured Daggett’s inaccurate statements in Grosse Point as an example of the need to examine teacher training in the US.
In response, Bracey said, “yesterday’s ‘Washington Post’ article once again reveals Grosse Point administrators as among the most craven cowards and dishonest educators in the nation.”
Daggett said in the “The Washington Post” that his inaccuracies were a result of a long day on his feet.
He testified before congressional committee that was looking at the Goals 2000 initiative.
FACT: Head Senate Librarian Greg Harness said, “I am confident he never testified before Congress.”
“Twenty-nine nations in the world require four years of technical reading and writing to graduate from high school.”
FACT: David Robitaille, international coordinator of the Third International Math and Science Study and a professor at the University of British Columbia said, “I’ve never heard of such a thing,” and said none of the countries he has studied have such requirements.
No one in the world teaches theoretical algebra, except the US.
FACT: Robitaille said, “It’s hard to imagine what non-theoretical algebra would be. What North American kids study (‘theoretical’ algebra) is not that much different from other countries.”
In 1996, 62 percent of the colleges in this country-the community colleges-did not require a high school diploma for admission.
FACT: Renee Gernand, who is in charge of the College Board’s database, said 75 percent of the two-year schools require a diploma for admission, 98 percent of four-year schools require a diploma. She said, “My data on this is very good. I don’t know where he got his numbers.
Fifty-four percent of the students in Arizona attend charter schools. Twenty-four percent of the students in California attend charter schools.
FACT: According to the California Department of Education’s website, 9 percent of all students are in charter schools, Director of Charter Schools Administration in Arizona Lyle Skillan said currently 4.2 percent of its students are in charter schools.
“There is one college in America this fall that has 600.000 students enrolled, which is eleven times larger than (University of ) Phoenix and you know what it is? It is called Western Virtual University. It started only two years ago,” to North students.
FACT: Only 180 students are enrolled, Director of University Affairs at Western Governors (formerly Virtual) University Amy Tejral said.
“At this moment, in the Antarctic, Stanford University has a laboratory, where they are growing tomatoes in 20 degree below zero temperatures, outside. And they’re going to full flavor and texture without freezing,” to North faculty.
FACT: Arthur Grossman, a professor of Biological Sciences at Stanford University, said this “doesn’t sound plausible at all” and he knew of no such program.
“My oldest daughter, Heidi, is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Carolina Complete Care, which is the fourth largest medical facility in the world. She is married to a young neurosurgeon.” She is in charge of eight hospitals including Baston Children’s Hospital, Duke, and John Hopkins.
FACT: Carolina Complete Care has four doctors on its staff: an internist, a family physician, and two chiropractors. It does not run any hospitals. Heidi is married to one of the chiropractors; she is the office manager.
“They (scientists) identified the gene combinations in the human body that led to male sexual dysfunction, which led to a new pharmaceutical: Viagra.”
FACT: According to Viagra’s website, it is not based on genetic research.
Note: There are at least a dozen more examples from Daggett’s presentations in Grosse Point.
Concerns cause presentation to unravel: A timeline
December 1994: “Washington Post” columnist William Raspberry first attributes a study to Dr. Willard Daggett that gets Dr. Gerald Bracey’s attention.
October 1995: Bracey writes an article in the education journal, “Phi Delta Kappan.” Bracey writes that he could not find the VCR study Daggett referred to in Raspberry’s column and in another presentation.
November 1998: Daggett makes a series of speeches in Grosse Pointe. One month later, Grosse Pointe North Science Teacher Peter Moskaluk writes to his principal raising questions about Daggett’s speeches.
January, 1999: Bracey sends a letter to district officials attacking many of Daggett’s claims. Daggett sends district officials a response to those claims two weeks later.
February 1999: Bracey sends a letter to district officials criticizing Daggett’s response. Later that month, Daggett sends the district a letter criticizing Bracey’s response to his response.
October 1999. Bracey gives two awards to district officials in “Phi Delta Kappan.” First, he gives Daggett the “Rotten Apple: The Who Cares About Facts? Award” for his speech in Grosse Pointe. He also gives Grosse Pointe administrators the “Rotten Apple: The Stop Pointing at Our Emperor Award” for their lack of action.
October 22, 1999: An article critical of Daggett’s work appears in “Investors Business Daily.” The same day, Daggett’s lawyers request that all the videotapes of his presentations in Grosse Pointe be returned immediately.
November 1999: District lawyers refuse to return the tapes and call the criticisms against Daggett “significant.”
April 2000: “The Washington Post” publishes a story on teacher training, and Daggett’s visit to Grosse Pointe is used as an example of what’s wrong with professional development classes.
(This completes The Tower “Fact or Fiction” article on Daggett)