2017 Annual Meeting Addresses Issues of Equal Educational Opportunity
2017 Annual Meeting Addresses Issues of Equal Educational Opportunity

May 2017

Held for the first time in San Antonio—and the U.S. Southwest—the 2017 AERA Annual Meeting brought together more than 13,600 scholars, policy leaders, and practitioners for five days of research discussion, exchange, and professional development.  

Attendees from across the United States and around the world included scholars from education research and a wide range of related disciplines and fields. Organized around the theme “Knowledge to Action: Achieving the Promise of Equal Educational Opportunity,” presidential sessions, panels, roundtables, lectures, and open forums showcased the vital necessity of equal education on a wide range of areas, from higher education access and teacher inequities, to classroom biases and undocumented students. 

AERA President Vivian Gadsden

Key Sessions

In this year’s Presidential Address, “The Promise of Education Research and the Public Trust,” Vivian Gadsden (Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania) examined the past and present successes and failings of educational equality. She further explained how education researchers have the power to eliminate the barriers to opportunity, engagement, and success. Gadsden issued an encouraging call to action to draw on the strengths of research, practice, and policy to fulfill the promise of educational equality.  

“This year’s theme is more than an intellectual nod to the enduring issues associated with unequal educational opportunity, or the dialectic of promise and achievement,” said Gadsden. “It represents a sense of urgency to address these issues not simply as business as usual, but business with purpose.”

“We are at one of the most critical moments of our professional work,” Gadsden said. “To ensure that public access to education is not decimated on the one hand or marred on the other. That is to determine, as an association, at this beginning of our second century, what we mean by the ‘public good’ and how we will promote it.”

Opening Plenary Participants: Katherine Mangan,
Jonathan Jansen, Michael Olivas,
and Cynthia Teniente-Matson

The Annual Meeting's Opening Plenary Session focused on the challenges and complexities facing higher education in a world that increasingly faces racial, social, and political divisions. Katherine Mangan (The Chronicle of Higher Education) moderated the session with Cynthia Teniente-Matson (Texas A&M University San Antonio), Michael A. Olivas (University of Houston), and Jonathan D. Jansen (University of the Free State in South Africa) serving as panelists. 

“Are you prepared to ask the broader question, ‘What kind of society makes this kind of burden of inequality possible in the first place,’” said Jonathan D. Jansen. “If you don’t ask that question, you, too, will at some point have to deal with the fire next time.”

Among other major meeting highlights:

Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot poses with a
meeting attendee after her lecture.

In the AERA Distinguished Lecture, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot (Harvard Graduate School of Education) spoke on how education researchers can create school cultures that “forge the connections between excellence and equity.” She presented “three V’s” that would achieve this effort: reframing views, lifting up voices, and making sure that everyone is visible.

“I fear that as our society and our schools have become increasingly diverse, as the distance between rich and poor continues to widen, the definitions of achievement have grown narrower and more exclusive,” said Lawrence-Lightfoot. “I urge us to see diversity as a strength and work towards its realization in the institutions and communities we inhabit . . . I urge us to make ourselves and others visible, bearing witness, and speaking out.”

This year 19 award winners in 13 association-wide categories were honored for their outstanding scholarship and contributions at the fifth annual AERA Awards Luncheon, and 14 new AERA Fellows were inducted at the annual Fellows Breakfast.

AERA held sessions on two new AERA books—Comparing Ethnographies: Local Studies of Education Across the Americas and Citizenship Education and Global Migration: Implications for Theory, Research, and Teaching —which were released at the Annual Meeting.

Research and Science Policy Forum

The 2017 Annual Meeting also engaged scholars in key issues surrounding research and science policy. The Research and Science Policy Forum held more than 20 sessions that featured research policy leaders in the field.

The Forum focused on emerging topics in—and the intersection among—education, education research, and science policy. Sessions covered a range of important issues including opportunities for federal research funding from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Science Foundation (NSF); the use of testing standards to increase research validity; and data sharing and research transparency in journal publishing.

A number of sessions in the series were directed to initiatives examining the state of knowledge or encouraging deeper consideration of promising directions for future research. Sessions included “Conversations Around the Collection and Use of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Data,” “Toward a STEM DBER Alliance (DBER-A): Building an Interdisciplinary Education Research Community Across Disciplines,” and, in collaboration with the World Education Research Association, “Longitudinal Administrative Data Systems—Developing Guidelines for Producers and Users.” 

"Advocating for Federal Research Support"
participants: Felice Levine, Wendy Naus,
Juliane Baron, Mark Vieth, and Ed Liebow 

In the session “Advocating for Federal Research Support—Navigating New Waters in Challenging Times,” participants discussed strategies and pathways to effectively advocate for education research funding on Capitol Hill. Participants included Wendy Naus (Consortium of Social Science Associations), Juliane Baron (AERA), Ed Liebow (American Anthropological Association), and Mark D. Vieth (Cavarocchi Ruscio Dennis Associates).

Opening this session was AERA Executive Director and session chair Felice J. Levine. “We really want to focus on the various ways we are approaching, in somewhat challenging times, advocating for federal research support,” said Levine. “Over the last several years, there have been many challenges, in general, to the place of research, the place of science, the place of knowledge production, and how the federal government should think about its investments in federal research support.”

Beyond the Meeting Halls

Annual Meeting papers and sessions have been making news headlines for much of May, including stories in NPR, the Times Educational Supplement, and the major education trade publications. View complete coverage at 2017 AERA Annual Meeting in the News.

The online Twitter conversation has become an integrated component of the AERA Annual Meeting, with presenters, attendees, and online viewers tweeting everything from session quotes to where to dine.

Still to come, AERA doubled the number of live-streamed sessions at this year’s meeting and will release videos of approximately 30 live-streamed sessions on the website. Once available, the professional development courses offered at the Annual Meeting will be accessible through the AERA Virtual Research Learning Center.

Bookmark the 2017 Annual Meeting page to stay up-to-date as articles, papers, videos, and photos are added.