2016 Annual Meeting Returns to DC with Big Success
2016 Annual Meeting Returns to DC with Big Success

April 2016

Returning to Washington, D.C. after almost 30 years, the 2016 AERA Annual Meeting brought the second-largest turnout ever (16,182) and a unique opportunity to connect research to policy and public issues. Attendees from across the United States and around the world included scholars from a wide range of disciplines and fields. Organized around the theme “Public Scholarship to Education Diverse Democracies,” as well as the celebration of AERA’s Centennial year, sessions, panels, roundtables, lectures, and receptions showcased public scholarship’s impact on a wide range of areas, from school finance policy and accountability to school-related inequalities, integration, and the Black Lives Matter movement. (See related story: Annual Meeting Commemorates 100 Years of AERA.)

Key Sessions

In this year’s Presidential Address, “Public Scholarship to Educate Diverse Democracies,” Jeannie Oakes (University of California–Los Angeles) examined the history of education research and how the issues today’s researchers face are the same issues researchers encountered a century ago. She further explained that these issues can and must be solved through public scholarship. Abandoning text, Oakes spoke directly to an audience of over 1,000 with an analytic overview of the past and a call for making research of the highest quality become an even more integral part of public decision making.  

AERA President Jeannie Oakes
“We need to go public,” said Oakes. “Decisions about whether our society is equitable and inclusive aren’t going to be made by data alone.”

“It is very important to have outstanding research,” said Oakes. “But the most important decisions get made based on public opinion and public perceptions and by politics. And the best data in the world cannot influence those, unless they are part of the public sphere.”

The Centennial Annual Meeting's Opening Plenary Session celebrated AERA’s 100-year milestone and highlighted the breadth and unity of the field of education research as it has evolved around the world. Donna E. Shalala (Clinton Foundation) moderated a Town Hall discussion that took a critical look at the current “state of the field” for education research.

Among other major meeting highlights:

 U.S. Second Lady Jill Biden

A third plenary session this year featured U.S. Second Lady Jill Biden, who was welcomed with a standing ovation by over 1,800 attendees. The purpose of this special session and the focal point of her interest is an initiative titled “Operation Educate the Educators: Recognizing and Supporting Military-Connected Students Through University-Based Research, Community Partnerships, and Teacher Education Programs.” Biden called upon the education research community to consider military-connected students as a diversity group with specific needs that must be addressed and met.

“As an educator and military mom, the way we reach out to military children in our classrooms is close to my heart,” said Biden. “When soldiers know their families are well cared for, they become better warriors and our country is better served and kept safe.”

Immediately following Biden’s remarks, Ron Avi Astor (University of Southern California), Catherine Bradshaw (University of Virginia), and Mary Keller (Military Child Education Coalition) joined Biden for a question and answer forum with session attendees, where they further explored the challenges and barriers military-connected students face today.

In the AERA Distinguished Lecture, Linda Darling-Hammond (Stanford University) spoke on how public scholars can contribute to a productive policy framework for education, specifically concerning accountability.

“Accountability should be designed to produce continuous system improvement, not just test scores,” said Darling-Hammond. She went on to say that accountability should “use multiple measures evaluated through systems of expert review, judgment, and intervention.”

This year’s meeting featured five sessions of Ed-Talks presented by leading education scholars. Each session featured rapid-fire presentations focused on major education research themes and was followed by engaging audience discussion.

In addition, 16 award winners in 15 association-wide categories were honored for their outstanding scholarship and service at the fourth annual AERA Awards Luncheon, and 22 new AERA Fellows were inducted at the annual Fellows Breakfast.

AERA held sessions on two new AERA books—Thinking and Acting Systemically: Improving School Districts Under Pressure and the fifth edition of the Handbook of Research on Teaching —which were released at the Annual Meeting.

As part of Annual Meeting, AERA also hosted the 2016 Focal Meeting of the World Education Research Association (WERA). The Focal Meeting was an integral part of the Annual Meeting and, with approximately 90 sessions, expanded international participation and attention to education research issues through a worldwide perspective.

Research and Science Policy Forum

The 2016 Annual Meeting also engaged scholars in key issues surrounding research and science policy. Holding the meeting in Washington, D.C. allowed for expanding the Research and Science Policy Forum to over 25 sessions that featured research policy leaders in the field.

The Forum focused on emerging topics in—and the intersection between—education, education research, and science policy. Sessions covered a range of important issues including opportunities and priorities at the Institute of Education Science (IES), the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and the National Science Foundation (NSF); research funding and data opportunities; privacy and ethics in cyberspace; advocacy strategies and priorities for education research; and data sharing, publishing, and transparency in research reporting.

A number of sessions in the series were directed to initiatives examining the state of the knowledge or encouraging deeper consideration of promising directions for future research. Sessions included an examination of research on “Creating Opportunity and Educational Pathways for Young Children and their Families,” “Schools, Rules, and Socialization Effects for Students: A Research Agenda,” and, in collaboration with the Association for the Study of Higher Education, focused on “Undocumented Students and Postsecondary Education Access: The State of the Knowledge.” 

In the well-attended session “The Fisher Case and Diversity in Higher Education: The Pending Decision and Beyond,” participants discussed the U.S. Supreme Court’s reconsideration of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the implications of the pending decision, and the vital importance of bringing rigorous science to bear in addressing diversity in higher education. Participants included Liliana M. Garces (The Pennsylvania State University–University Park), William Kidder (University of California–Riverside), Gary A. Orfield (University of California–Los Angeles), and Shirley Malcom (American Association for the Advancement of Science).

 AERA Executive Director
Felice J. Levine

Opening this session was AERA Executive Director and session chair Felice J. Levine. “There has been a substantial amount of quality scientific research around this topic,” said Levine. “The AERA amicus brief joined by nine other scientific societies sought to serve the public good by making it accessible to the court. Whatever the outcome of this case, we need to urge the scholarly community to continue to examine these issues.”

Beyond the Meeting Halls

Annual Meeting papers and sessions have been making news headlines for much of April, including stories in NPR, The Huffington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Politico, and the major education trade publications. View complete coverage at 2016 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. For the fourth year in a row, the #AERA16 hashtag hit trending status on April 8 and April 10. There were more than 27,500 #AERA16 tweets during the meeting dates, 4,500 more than during the 2015 Annual Meeting. In total, #AERA16 was tweeted out more than 40,000 times. In addition, the #AERABlackGirlsMatter hashtag trended during a session on the theme“#BlackGirlsMatter: Public Scholarship Engaging with the Race/Gender Interaction in Schools.”

Still to come, AERA will release videos of the 14 live-streamed sessions on the website; however, the raw video footage may be watched at any time through the live-stream page (free registration required). Once available, the professional development courses offered at the Annual Meeting will be accessible through the AERA Virtual Research Learning Center.

Bookmark the 2016 Annual Meeting page to stay up-to-date as articles, papers, videos, and photos are added.

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