Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to Kindly Fund Research into Student-Worn Bracelets Monitoring Teacher Effectiveness

Bill and Melinda Gates' grantmaking non-profit the Gates Foundation is taking another swing at America's flawed education system. Their focus is predictably not on lack of resources for teachers and schools, but how to make sure teachers are keeping their kids 'engaged.' The Microsoft founder has pumped $1.4 million in grants into researching student-worn wrist bracelets that would monitor a kid's "excitement, stress, fear, engagement, boredom and relaxation through the skin," the Sydney Morning Herald reported last month.

Stuff Magazine says that the purpose of their funding is not to monitor teacher performance, but to procure "data collection and analysis techniques to predict which teachers and teaching styles will be most effective."  Regardless, the notion that these bracelets could benefit American students in any meaningful way is drawing plenty of ire. First off, say critics, it is difficult or impossible to isolate a student's reactions to the teacher from everything else happening in their clasroom or lives. 

"In high school biology I didn't learn a thing all year, but boy was I stimulated. The girl who sat next to me was gorgeous. Just gorgeous," Arthur Goldstein, a veteran English teacher in New York City told Reuters.

Others link the bracelets to the focus on quantifiable student and teacher performance evaluations. "They should devote more time to improving the substance of what is being taught ... and give up all this measurement mania," Diane Ravitch, an education professor at New York University, told Reuters. 

As Reuters points out, this is not the first time the Gates Foundation has funded quantifiable teacher evaluations:

The Gates Foundation has spent two years videotaping 20,000 classroom lessons and breaking them down, minute by minute, to analyze how each teacher presents material and how those techniques affect student test scores.

The foundation has also asked 100,000 kids around the country detailed questions about their teachers: Does she give students time to explain their ideas? Does he summarize the lesson at the end of class? That data, again, will be correlated with test scores to try to identify the most effective teaching styles.

The foundation has spent $45 million on such research, under the umbrella name Measures of Effective Teaching.

Researchers will begin testing the bracelets in middle-school classrooms this fall. Read more about it here


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