AERA Award Winners Address Pressing Education Issues in High-Profile Lectures
AERA Award Winners Address Pressing Education Issues in High-Profile Lectures

May 2023

The 2023 Annual Meeting featured six thought-provoking lectures given by recent AERA award recipients. The talks, by some of the most insightful and influential minds in the field of education research, addressed some of the most pressing issues in education, from inequality in U.S. math education to the racialized framing of U.S. bilingual education to growing attacks on democratic and inclusive education.  

Five of the lectures were given by 2022 AERA award winners, while one was delivered by a 2021 award recipient, whose lecture, originally planned for the 2022 Annual Meeting, was postponed to this year.

William H. Schmidt

William H. Schmidt (Michigan State University) delivered the 2022 Distinguished Contributions to Research in Education Award Lecture. Schmidt’s lecture, titled “Inequality in U.S. Mathematics Education: The Roles Race and Socioeconomic Status Play. Schmidt examined the relationship race and SES have directly on student performance as well as on the various components of schooling at both the system level and classroom level.

Schmidt noted that the performance gaps in mathematics “are not exclusive to the United States, they’re being seen everywhere,” and that it was the responsibility of school leaders and policymakers to ensure that all students were given the opportunity for rigorous math instruction.

“If you expect children to be able to solve a problem with mathematics but give them no background in the subject, that’s illogical,” said Schmidt. “Mathematics is, in my mind, the second great literacy. Think about how much math you see in your daily life, it truly is a critical literacy. All children need it, not just some.”

Carol D. Lee

The 2021 Distinguished Contributions to Research in Education Award Lecture, which was postponed from the 2022 Annual Meeting, was delivered by Carol D. Lee (Northwestern University). In her lecture, “How the Science(s) of Human Learning and Diversity (SoLD) Can Inform Foundational Truths About the Centrality and Complexity of Diversity: Wrestling With Interrogations of Race and Resiliency—From a Grandma's Lens,” Lee examined the complexities of how humans learn and develop, providing commentary on the essentiality of diversity.

Lee illustrated how observing her grandchildren has provided her with new insight on learning and development. “It has been through observing them as they play, as they navigate relationships, as they seek to achieve their goals, that my grandma lens has turned out to be the most influential and consequential act of inquiry for me,” said Lee.

“The complex system of human learning and development, while complex, is evident before us in real life every day,” Lee said. “As researchers who seek to understand such complexity in order to inform efforts to build robust learning and development should not be overwhelmed and develop the humility to learn how people live.”

Peggy G. Carr

Peggy G. Carr (National Center for Education Statistics) delivered the 2022 Distinguished Public Service Award Lecture, titled “A Bold, Inclusive Roadmap for the Future: Our Pursuit of More Equitable Educational Outcomes for All.” Carr reflected on what the country will need from NCES and the community to create equitable opportunities for all students and NCES’ strategic plan.

“Better data should support policy that promotes equitable opportunity,” said Carr. “Behind this data are real children who need attention and support to succeed and achieve their dreams. We are working in the measurement community to better represent the large number of kids on the lower end of the scales.”

Carr also expressed concern about states that significantly lowered testing thresholds during the pandemic: “The COVID pandemic clearly had an impact on educational progress, but it had a particular impact on those students who were already behind. It is not right for a student in this country to be told that he or she is doing well when the bar is so low.”

Daniel M. Koretz​

In his 2022 E. F. Lindquist Award Lecture,  “A Legacy of E. F. Lindquist: Improving Balance in Educational Measurement,” Daniel M. Koretz (Harvard University) identified obstacles in educational measurement practice and how to confront them in order to re-establish a healthier balance between mathematical and procedural issues on the one hand and practical issues of test use and inference on the other.

“Something we’ve known since the 1980s is that while math scores have skyrocketed, institutions have skewed resources towards preparing for these examinations and have continued to leave behind certain demographics,” said Koretz, while also noting that there is “market pressure” for schools to report higher test scores.

“I don’t think we can realistically judge schools based on purely numerical statistics. I just don’t think it can be done,” Koretz added. “There has to be a human element of evaluation.”

Nelson Flores​

The 2022 Early Career Award Lecture was delivered by Nelson Flores (University of Pennsylvania). In his lecture, “What Can Bilingual Education Teach Us About Race in the Post–Civil Rights Era,” Flores examined ways racial logics have framed bilingual education.

“We can never end racial oppression by relying on ideologies that are built on the oppression of Black and Indigenous people both within and beyond the Latinx community,” said Flores. “Instead of trying to achieve whiteness, we find points of solidarity within and across racialized groups that work to dismantle colonial ideologies.

“If bilingual education can help us to understand race in the post-Civil Rights era, it can also help us in the movement toward these possibilities, these decolonial futures,” Flores said.

Tyrone C. Howard​

In the final award lecture of the Annual Meeting, AERA President Tyrone C. Howard (University of California, Los Angeles) gave the 2022 Social Justice in Education Award Lecture. His lecture “Seeking Justice in Unjust Schools and Classrooms: Implications for Education Researchers and Practitioners” focused on the attacks on democratic and inclusive education and how work can be done to disrupt and dismantle unjust learning opportunities in education.

“The first step to supporting justice in schools and classrooms is to recognize the complexity of these challenges,” said Howard. “Issues tied to inequality, poverty, racism, and sexism remain very much enmeshed in our nation's fabric, despite the apparent progress we have made.”

“We cannot expect schools to do it all by themselves,” Howard said. “The problems are always so much larger than the school, and we can’t expect them to do it all.”

Recordings of these lectures are available on the 2023 Annual Meeting online platform and mobile app.