The Gates Foundation now says that its grants for the galvanic skin response monitor had no connection with teacher evaluation, even though the statement on its web site says the purpose of the grant is to “determine the feasibility and utility of using such devices regularly in schools with students and teachers” and says that the researchers at Clemson will be working with the MET (teacher evaluation) project of the Gates Foundation.

The foundation issued the following statement yesterday (sent to me by a reporter, without a link), responding to the questions raised on this blog and elsewhere:

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding a portfolio of nearly $1.4 million in grants to support researchers interested in studying students’ classroom engagement – based on biometric measures like skin sensitivity, as indicated through bracelets.  This pilot of approximately 100 students has not yet begun.  Past studies with autistic children have used the bracelets to show those who might seem unresponsive to external stimuli are engaged and learning .

These grants are not all related to the Measures of Effective Teaching research project, and will not in any way be used to evaluate teacher performance.  Rather, these are tools to help students and teachers gain a better understanding how and when students are most engaged in the classroom, with the ultimate goal of learning how to help students learn better.

The foundation is funding, rather than conducting this research, and specific questions about research design and objectives are best directed to researchers  Rosalind Picard and Shaundra

In this statement, the foundation insists that the bracelets “will not in any way be used to evaluate teacher performance.” That is interesting since the grant announcement said the money was connected to the Gates MET (Measures of Effective Teaching) program. But, let’s take them at their word. Developing these biometric measures has nothing to do with measuring teachers’ performance, which is a major focus of the foundation at this time.

But here’s more new information.

A reader sent the following comment:

In 2008 Microsoft filed a patent application for a system that monitors employee metabolism: “one or more physiological or environmental sensors to detect at least one of heart rate, galvanic skin response, EMG, brain signals, respiration rate, body temperature, movement, facial movements, facial expressions, and blood pressure.”Here is the patent application. And here is an article about it.