School & District Management

Pregaming AERA

By Holly Kurtz — March 25, 2014 6 min read
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In advance of its annual meeting April 3-7 in Philadelphia, the American Educational Research Association has made a slew of announcements.

Presiding over the meeting will be President Barbara Schneider, a professor of sociology and education at Michigan State University who offers this overview for attendees. When the meeting ends, Schneider will pass the gavel to Joyce King, the chair of urban teaching, learning, and leadership at Georgia State University. Waiting in the wings is newly elected 2015 President Jeannie Oakes, the director of the Ford Foundation’s programs in educational equity and scholarship and the presidential professor emeritus in educational equity at the University of California, Los Angeles. And, now that I have finally earned my degree, I can confess that one of my favorite sports as a graduate student was figuring out how to sneak into AERA’s presidential receptions, where I got to observe the abstracts of my assigned readings come to life as their authors cut loose on the dance floor. Also, what graduate student can resist the temptation of free food?

AERA is a big conference that can be confusing and intimidating to navigate, especially for newcomers. I think my favorite guide is former president Gloria Ladson-Billings’s humorous 2005 Educational Researcher piece, in which she describes an assorted menagerie of undesirable conference behavior by comparing participants to such animals as cats, bulls, and gerbils. I’m not going to pretend I can produce anything half as entertaining so I will highlight some key events instead in the hopes of preventing readers from wearing down the heels of their conference shoes too much as they navigate the 2,000-plus sessions.

Headliners at this year’s conference will include Diane Ravitch, research professor of education at New York University, and Helen Gym, a Philadelphia area community activist and journalist who founded Parents United for Public Education. The two will speak April 3 about educational research and equity. Gym is not the only local bigwig speaking at the conference. Others include Ed Rendell, the former Pennsylvania governor and Philadelphia mayor, Philadelphia Schools Superintendent William Hite, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, and Angela Duckworth, a University of Pennsylvania scholar and MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant recipient.

Also April 3, University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan will deliver the opening plenary session, in which she will lecture on educational research and innovation.

On April 4, Catherine Snow, a professor of education at Harvard University, will present a lecture entitled “Rigor and Realism: Doing Educational Science in the Real World.” Snow studies literacy, language acquisition and English-as-a-second-language learning. On April 5, President Schneider will present a talk on college on “undermatch,” the tendency of low-income and minority students to enroll in colleges that are less selective than one might expect, given their grades, test scores and goals.

Also on April 5, AERA will hold an awards ceremony to honor 16 winners in 11 categories.

The Distinguished Contributions to Research in Education Award will be given to three scholars:

  • Doug Fuchs, a professor of special education and the Nicholas Hobbs chair in special education and human development at Vanderbilt University.
  • Lynn Fuchs, a Nicholas Hobbs professor of special education and human development at Vanderbilt and the wife of Doug Fuchs, and
  • Adam Gamoran, the president of the William T. Grant Foundation and the former holder of the John D. MacArthur chair in sociology and educational policy studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Other awardees include:

  • Liliana M. Garces, an assistant professor of higher education at Pennsylvania State University-University Park, who is the winner of the Palmer O. Johnson Memorial Award for her article “Understanding the Impact of Affirmative Action Bans in Different Graduate Fields of Study,” which appeared in AERA’s peer-refereed American Educational Research Journal in April 2013. Garces found that affirmative action bans in California, Texas, Florida, and Washington had the greatest impact in the science-related fields of engineering, the natural sciences, and the social sciences.
  • Hal Lawson, a professor of educational administration and policy studies and also a professor of social welfare at the University at Albany - SUNY and Michael Lawson, an assistant professor of human development at Binghamton University, won the Review of Research Award for “New Conceptual Frameworks for Student Engagement Research, Policy, and Practice,” their March 2013 article in Review of Educational Research. The review “invites researchers, policymakers, and school-community leaders to develop improvement models that provide a more expansive, engagement-focused reach into students’ family, peer, and neighborhood ecologies.”
  • Shaun Harper, an associate professor in the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, who won the Relating Research to Practice Award for Interpretive Scholarship. Harper, who studies higher education and black male student achievement, is the founder and director of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at Penn.
  • Mark Reckase won the E. F. Lindquist Award, which recognizes “outstanding applied or theoretical research in the field of testing and measurement.” Reckase is a university distinguished professor in the department of counseling, educational psychology and special education at Michigan State University. His areas of expertise are: item response theory, computerized adaptive testing, standard-setting, and teacher education program evaluation.

The Early Career Award went to two scholars:.

  • Sara Goldrick-Rab, an associate professor of educational policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who studies the “college for all” movement, and.
  • Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, an assistant professor of education and psychology at the University of Southern California who studies language, emotion, cognitive development, learning, and brain science.

The awards list also includes:

  • David Kirp of the University of California-Berkeley, who won the Outstanding Book Award for Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America’s Schools, which was published in 2013 by Oxford University Press. The book tells the story of Union City, N.J., a high-poverty district that has attained strong test results by implementing high-quality early-childhood-education programs and other research-based, long-term reforms.
  • Michael A. Olivas, who won the Social Justice in Education Award. Olivas is the William B. Bates Distinguished Chair of Law at the University of Houston Law Center. Olivas has studied, litigated, and served as an expert witness in legal actions related to education, finance, and immigration matters.
  • Ruby Takanishi, a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation, who won the Distinguished Public Service Award. Takanishi is currently studying the idea of introducing voluntary universal prekindergarten.

The Committee on Scholars of Color in Education honored three scholars:

  • Janelle Scott won the Scholars of Color Distinguished Scholar Award. Scott, an associate professor of education and African-American studies at the University of California - Berkeley, studies issues related to education policy and equality.
  • Dorinda Carter Andrews an associate professor of teacher education at Michigan State, won of two Scholars of Color Early Career Contribution. She studies race and equity in education.
  • Eve Tuck is the second winner of the Scholars of Color Early Career Award and an assistant professor of educational foundations at the State University of New York at New Paltz. She has conducted participatory action research on the use and misuse of the General Educational Development option and is currently conducting research with migrant youth.

Finally, if you have reached the end of this piece and still have questions about what to do while you are in Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Education Professor Marybeth Gasman and her students created this video about local history and sites, including a recreation of the famous stair-running scenes from the “Rocky” movies.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.