"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, February 17, 2014

Will Bill Gates Take the Podium at AERA?

It’s a tough time in higher education, with a growing army of exploited, part-time academic sharecroppers now driving from school to school to fill teaching slots that were once reserved for tenure track professors.  See chart below from AAUP:

As full-time faculty numbers dwindle, so does the core university value of shared governance, which has been a defining aspect of universities for hundreds of years.  

Such a shortage, however, offers administrators the opportunity to add new layers of mid-level managers, directors, assistants to this and associates to that all over campus, thus turning decision-making over to marketing majors, bean counters, sycophants, and other hangers on who become immersed in unending internal wars devoted to which new forms need to be filled out by whom for what purposes.  The new efficiency.  

Professors who question the direction of the new corporate university were shocked and angered last year when Arne Duncan was invited to speak at the annual convention of the American Education Research Association.  Those reading AERA President Bill Tierney's emails could have found plenty of foreshadowing, as in this one from March 2013:
  1. We need to rethink our publishing outlets and communications schemes. 
  2. We need to reimagine the Annual Meeting to provide the highest quality presentations in the most advanced communicative formats. 
  3. We need to make membership attractive to more individuals and groups who can contribute their inspiration and insight. Non-tenure-track faculty are a primary example.
  4. We need to broaden our financial base and become less dependent on membership dues and conference registration. 
  5. We need to consider offering MOOCs (massive online open courses), online training modules, digital badges, and other options for professional development and research training that will appeal to our membership and education audiences worldwide. 
  6. We need to broaden and improve our outreach to multiple constituencies.
Even so, when I was told yesterday that it is 95% certain that Bill Gates will speak at this year's AERA Convention in Philadelphia, I was stunned.  

Call me naive.  But then when I went to AERA's site, I found this, which helps explain a good deal about broadening that "financial base" and becoming "less dependent on membership."  

The bold italics are mine:

The AERA-MET Dissertation Fellowship Program deadline is March 3, 2014.
AERA-MET Dissertation Fellowship Webinar – Dataset Overview and Fellowship Information - Now Available on AERA Virtual Research Learning Center (VRLC)!Download the AERA-MET Dissertation Fellowship Call for Proposals.
Access the AERA-MET Dissertation Fellowship online application to submit your proposal materials.
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) with funding support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is pleased to announce a dissertation fellowship program to support graduate students in education research to conduct secondary data analysis using the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Longitudinal Database. The AERA-MET Dissertation Fellowship Program provides funding and professional development and training to dissertation stage graduate students who use the MET data to address research questions and examine issues that will contribute to knowledge about teaching and learning. The program supports high-quality science undertaken by the education research field through dissertation research on topics related to teaching and instruction, the effects of the classroom and school climate, student achievement, children and youth, and other educational issues.

About the MET Database
The MET Longitudinal Database consists of extensive quantitative and qualitative information about teachers and their teaching, students’ academic achievement, video-recorded lessons, and assessments of a teacher’s pedagogical and content knowledge, as well as surveys of students, teachers, principals, and schools. Recognizing the importance and richness of the MET dataset, AERA supports and builds research capacity among graduate students who use these data in their dissertation projects. Through use of this dataset researchers are trained and encouraged to analyze the MET database systematically and rigorously (whether through quantitative or qualitative methodologies) to address education research questions that can ultimately enhance teaching and learning in our nation’s K-12 classrooms. Funded dissertation studies that use the MET database are expected to contribute to new knowledge, advance analytic methods for using such data, raise the profile of the value of these data, and enhance the research findings produced by the next generation of secondary users of this resource. . . .
Okay, then.  Let's see.  The most prestigious educational research organization in the world has just partnered up with Bill Gates to use a corrupted database that was put together by Gates contractors to arrive at a conclusion that would further the agenda of billionaires who aspire to control K-22 education here and abroad.  

To "raise the profile of the value of these data?"  Really?  Somehow I think it may take more than a handful of hungry doctoral students to take the smell away from the MET database.  

In a review of the MET study by Jesse Rothstein and William Mathis, the authors summarized thusly (please do read the entire review):
Summary of Review
The Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project was a multi-year study of thousands of teachers in six school districts that concluded in January 2013. This review addresses two of the final MET research papers. One paper uses random assignment to test for bias in teachers’ value-added scores. The experimental protocol was compromised, however, when many students did not remain with the teachers to whom researchers had assigned them; other students and teachers did not participate at all. This prevents conclusive answers to the questions of interest. The second paper examines how best to combine value-added scores, classroom observations, and student surveys in teacher evaluations. The data do not support the MET project’s premise that all three primarily reflect a single general teaching factor, nor do the data support the project's conclusion that the three should be given roughly equal weight. Rather, each measure captures a distinct component of teaching. Evaluating teachers requires judgments about which components are the most important, judgments that are not much informed by the MET’s masses of data. While the MET project has brought unprecedented vigor to teacher evaluation research, its results do not settle disagreements about what makes an effective teacher and offer little guidance about how to design real-world teacher evaluation systems.
Will the Commodore of the Billionaire Boys' Club, Bill Gates, speak at AERA?  I contacted AERA last evening with the query: "I am hearing rumors of a keynote at AERA this year by Bill Gates.  Can you confirm or deny, or can you put me in touch with the person who can?"

The response was quick and terse:  "He is not giving a keynote."  


I am hearing, too, that the Program will be out tomorrow. Inquiring minds want to know.

1 comment:

  1. Now that Bill is no longer Chair of the Board at Microsoft, he has more free time to dabble in killing Public Higher Education.