This Week in Crazy: Bill Gates funding student ‘Galvanic’ bracelet studies
If you thought Louisiana’s Compass teacher evaluation system was controversial, take a look at what the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is spending $1.1 million to study: ‘Galvanic’ bracelets to physiologically measure student engagement in the classroom.
The Washington Post reports that studies are under way at both Clemson University and the National Center on Time and Learning to measure the feasibility of “galvanic skin response” bracelets that students would wear to measure how effective their teachers are in engaging the kids they teach.
The goal of the Clemson study, according to the description of Gates’ $498,055 grant for the university, is to work with a “Measuring Effective Teachers” team to explore “using such devices regularly in schools with students and teachers.” Say what?
The purpose of the $621,265 grant given to the time and learning center is “To measure engagement physiologically with Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Galvanic Skin Response to determine correlations between each measure and develop a scale that differentiates different degrees or levels of engagement:”
That’s more than $1.1 million that could have been spent on things that schools actually need, such as books, teachers, librarians, etc.
The foundation gave the awards as part of its Measuring Effective Teachers project , which is experimenting with teacher evaluation systems in seven school districts nationwide. Millions of dollars have gone into these evaluation experiments, which, among other things, have involved the use of standardized test scores to assess teacher effectiveness (a bad idea), as well as the questionable videotaping of teachers. And now, bracelets.
[Longtime teacher and national reform opponent Susan] Ohanian notes here that the kind of technology needed to develop galvanic bracelets is part of the “emerging field of neuromarketing,” which “relies on biometric technologies to determine a participant’s emotional and cognitive response to certain stimuli.”
Wa-Po notes that the Gates grants were awarded more than seven months ago but weren’t brought to light until Ohanian and Diane Ravitch, an education reform critic and former policy adviser under President George W. Bush, discussed the studies recently on their blogs.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been a generous donor for the state-run Recovery School District in New Orleans, ponying up millions to aid in the conversion of the city’s public schools to privately run charters, according to the Louisiana School Boards Association website.
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.