So 11 of us showed up at the Tech Plaza for Fallon’s Focus Group, and they only chose 9 of us. The two of us that were rejected still received the “Honorium” (I haven’t opened the check yet, but I assume it is $75).


We had some light discussion as we were crowded into a narrow hallway waiting for our names to be called like jurors or something. Not everyone was clear that this was about Unit 4, much less anything tied to the Futures Conference (one lady did make a connection after reading an article in last week’s News-Gazette – thanks Meg! :)). It sounds like every one of us is a Unit 4 parent with children at all levels of school (and at least one parent that also had a child at Judah). Demographically, it was not very diverse at all – probably only two were not white, and one of them was with me on the short list. The “Chosen” were 4 males, 5 females. Fortunately I am good friends with one of the guys so I am bugging him to tell me about it. *grin* I am hoping they did not have to sign a NDA (non-disclosure agreement).


I chatted a little with the african-american lady as we walked out the building. She was really concerned about the attempted child abductions (a very valid concern!), but she was also very appreciative of how quick the school district responded (including a police sketch of the suspects). She also wanted to participate in the discussion to hear what others were thinking. And that’s pretty much what I wanted to do. I am wondering if perhaps that is something buried in our DNA, to be curious what others are thinking and what they will say. That and the innate desire to speak our own thoughts. 🙂


It will be interesting to watch what Fallon does with these focus groups. There was a group leaving before us (I was told by one of the others who got there before me) and I saw a bunch of names on a signup sheet (didn’t recognize any of them); impossible to know if they were also a Fallon focus group, but it’s possible.


7 Responses to “Rejected”

  1. charlesdschultz Says:

    It wasn’t a check, silly me. Nope, it was a $50, a $20 and a $5.

    In retrospect, it was a little weird. I am positive Fallon Research had to rent out the research room of the Tech Plaza; one of the attendees mentioned “Too bad there aren’t any empty large rooms nearby [*dripping sarcasm*]”. I am curious how much money goes into one Focus Group – at the very least, you have 12 x $75 = $900. I wonder what $900 of opinion research is worth these days. No sarcasm meant because I have absolutely no basis to form an opinion.

    Also, when I said “not very diverse at all”, to be sure, I have no way to judge whether the members represented an economic diversity or not – there was a significant lack of obvious cultural diversity.

  2. pattsi Says:

    $75 to participate in a focus group. What does this do to bias/skew responses and participation?

  3. pattsi Says:

    P.S. And you did not participate; yet, you accept the renumeration? I assume others who did not participate also accepted the renumeration.

  4. charlesdschultz Says:

    For the record, I will be recycling my “remuneration” back into the schools via a direct donation. But thanks for your tax dollars! 🙂

    My buddy who got the honor of participating in the focus group had several things to say about it. First, the facilitator/moderator guy did a really good job keeping the discussion going and making sure nobody dominated the conversation. The flow of the questions started off with the super-generic “issues in Champaign” and slowly focused more and more on future facilities. My friend mentioned something along the lines of how it seemed like the facilitator had an end-goal in mind and was trying to figure out how best to communicate the end-goal to the community. Like the futures conference, it seemed like the impetus was “our buildings are older, therefore our students must be suffering” (you know, the whole being left behind the 22nd Century thing *cough cough*).

    When asked about issues concerning the schools, topics like inequities came up; one example was how there is a strong focus on the gifted program, but nothing for the other end of the spectrum. I got the impression nobody was thinking facilities was an issue until the facilitator mentioned it, and then everyone was like “well, yeah, the buildings are indeed older….”

    I specifically asked if he felt the $75 overtly biased or skewed the responses, and it sounds like the money was seen mostly as a compensation just be there in the first place.

    As we talked, my impression that folks had no clue this focus group was initially about Unit 4 (and facilities specifically) was merely reinforced. At one point, it sounds like the participants were asked to rate various facility-centered projects in terms of importance; for example, building a new Central, remodeling Edison, revamping South Side, etc. It is hard for me to place myself in the shoes of someone who might be coming in blind, but I would think that most people would have no solid idea how to accurately portray what they think about these kinds of things. I mean, most people have so much going on in their lives as it is, how are they supposed to rate the importance of a facility project? It’s like showing up on November 6th and getting hit with some long-winded question about amending the constitution and a 3/5 majority vote (*tongue in cheek*).

    Yet, having said all this, I must confess this is but one lens to view through. I (always) appreciate other perspectives.

  5. charlesdschultz Says:

    Just a reminder that the RFP Unit 4 put out for the PE firm specifically mentions a focus on finding a high school site:

    The Champaign School District is seeking educational services that will extensively engage its parents and community members. The program’s goals are to inform the public about the availability of high school sites, evaluate such sites and recommend two sites to the Board of Education. Public participation is critical in this planning effort. Reaching a consensus in the effort requires the community’s participation and cooperation.

  6. pattsi Says:

    Maybe a little digging into the research literature on focus groups might yield more information whether paying participants contaminates collected data. Think of this as a smaller order of a university research project on “X” sponsored by “X” with exact same interest. Where is the “firewall”? As to recycling the public’s tax dollar back to Unit 4 my speculation is that you are n=1. Did your buddy do this? Is there an ethical issue to be paid for your opinion? 🙂 I am looking forward to reading what others think about this.

  7. Updates from Stephanie Stuart in regards to Unit 4 and the PE firm « A citizen’s blog about Champaign Unit 4 Says:

    […] and maybe even the newly announced Nov. 29th Community Meeting. And I have blogged about the Fallon focus groups, which is probably little known to most folks. It seems to me that the PE firm has been busy […]

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