Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development

Simmons School researchers receive $2.5 million NSF grant to develop math-skills assessment system

Lindsey Perry and Leanne Ketterlin Geller

Lindsey Perry and Leanne Ketterlin Geller

SMU researchers have received a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to target the ongoing struggle of U.S. elementary and high school students with math.

The new four-year grant, to the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, is led by SMU K-12 math education experts Leanne Ketterlin Geller and Lindsey Perry. They will conduct research and develop an assessment system comprised of two universal screening tools to measure mathematical reasoning skills for grades K–2.

When it comes to the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math, research shows that U.S. students continue at a disadvantage all the way through high school and entering college. The NSF grant provides “an opportunity to develop an assessment system that can help teachers support students at the earliest, and arguably one of the most critical, phases of a child’s mathematical development,” said Ketterlin Geller, a professor in the Simmons School and principal investigator for the grant developing the “Measures of Mathematical Reasoning Skills” system.

Teachers and schools will use the assessment system to screen students and determine who is at risk for difficulty in early mathematics, including students with disabilities. The measures also will help provide important information about the intensity of support needed for a given student.

Few assessments are currently available to measure the critical math concepts taught during those early school years, Ketterlin Geller says. “Providing teachers with data to understand how a child processes these concepts can have a long-term impact on students’ success not only in advanced math like algebra, but also success in STEM fields, such as chemistry, biology, geology and engineering.”

— Written by Margaret Allen

> Read the full story from the SMU Research blog

SMU, LIFT team in semifinals for $7 million Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE

 

An SMU and Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT) team has been named one of eight semifinalists advancing in the $7 million Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE presented by Dollar General Literacy Foundation. The XPRIZE is a global competition that challenges teams to develop mobile applications designed to increase literacy skills in adult learners.

> Learn more about the semifinalists at the Adult Literacy XPRIZE website

SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development and Guildhall graduate video game development program are working with LIFT to design an engaging, puzzle-solving smartphone game app to help adults develop literacy skills. The SMU and LIFT team, People ForWords, is one of 109 teams who entered the competition in 2016.

Drawing upon the education experts at SMU’s Simmons School, game developers at Guildhall and adult literacy experts at LIFT, the team developed Codex: The Lost Words of Atlantis. In the game, players become archaeologists hunting for relics from the imagined once-great civilization of Atlantis. By deciphering the forgotten language of Atlantis, players develop and strengthen their own reading skills. The game targets English- and Spanish-speaking adults.

> Learn more about the Codex: The Lost Words of Atlantis team at PeopleForWords.org

Students at LIFT, a North Texas nonprofit adult literacy provider, have tested and provided key insights for the game during its development. According to LIFT, one in five adults in North Texas cannot read, a key factor in poverty. Dallas has the fourth highest concentration of poverty in the nation, with a 41 percent increase from 2000 to 2014.

Testing of the eight semifinalists’ literacy software begins in mid-July with 12,000 adults who read English at a third grade level or lower. Selection of up to five finalists will depend on results of post-game testing to evaluate literacy gains among test subjects. Finalists will be named in May 2018, and the winner will be named in 2019.

> See the full story at SMU News

> Download the Codex: The Lost Words Of Atlantis app for Android at Google Play

Check out the Codex gameplay with this gallery of screen captures:

Eighteen SMU faculty members retire with emeritus status in 2016-17

Eighteen distinguished faculty members with a combined total of nearly 585 years of SMU service retired with emeritus status in the 2016-17 academic year.

The professors, and their dates of service:

• Thomas E. Barry, Professor Emeritus of Marketing, Cox School of Business, 1970-2017

• Janis Bergman-Carton, Professor Emerita of Art History, Meadows School of the Arts, 1991-2017

Edward Biehl, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, 1962-2017

Gordon Birrell, Professor Emeritus of World Languages and Literatures, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, 1974-2017

Dolores M. Etter, Professor Emerita of Electrical Engineering, Lyle School of Engineering, 2008-2016

 Richard F. Gunst, Professor Emeritus of Statistical Science, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, 1971-2017

 C. Michael Hawn, University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Church Music, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, 1992-2017

• Debora Hunter, Professor Emerita of Art, Meadows School of the Arts, 1976-2017

Alireza Khotanzad, Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering, Lyle School of Engineering, 1984-2017

 Ndiva Kofele-Kale, Professor Emeritus of Law, Dedman School of Law, 1989-2017

• Robert Krout, Professor Emeritus of Music, Meadows School of the Arts, 2004-2017

• Patricia Mathes, Texas Instruments Chair of Reading and Professor Emerita of Teaching and Learning, Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, 2003-2017

 Sherry L. Smith, University Distinguished Professor Emerita of History, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, 1999-2017

 Willard Spiegelman, Hughes Professor Emeritus of English, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, 1971-2017

 Steve Sverdlik, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, 1982-2017

• Martin Sweidel, Professor Emeritus of Music, Meadows School of the Arts, 1986-2016

 John Walther, Professor Emeritus of Earth Sciences, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, 1994-2017

 Ronald Wetherington, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, 1964-2017

Four distinguished SMU scholars named 2017 Ford Research Fellows

Four outstanding SMU professors were honored for their scholarship and research with 2017 Ford Research Fellowships. The awards were presented during the Board of Trustees meeting Thursday, May 4.

This year’s recipients are Stephanie Al Otaiba, Teaching and Learning, Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development; Jeffrey Kahn, Dedman School of Law; Zhong Lu, Earth Sciences, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences; and Bruce Marshall, Perkins School of Theology.

Established in 2002 through a $1 million pledge from trustee Gerald J. Ford, the fellowships help SMU retain and reward outstanding scholars. Each recipient receives a cash prize for research support during the year.

Stephanie Al Otaiba is the Patsy and Ray Caldwell Centennial Chair in Teaching and Learning in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. Her research interests include school-based literacy interventions, response to intervention, learning disabilities, diverse learners, and teacher training. She has published more than 110 journal articles and book chapters and has also developed reading curricular materials. Her research has been supported by several federally funded grants from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences and Office of Special Education Programs, and from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Jeffrey Kahn is a professor in Dedman School of Law whose areas of expertise include U.S. constitutional law, administrative law, Russian law, human rights and counterterrorism. His latest research focuses on the right to travel and national security law; his most recent book, Mrs. Shipley’s Ghost: The Right to Travel and Terrorist Watchlists, critically examines the U.S. government’s no-fly list. Professor Kahn’s work on Russian law has been noted by name by the editors of The New York Times and published in various law reviews, as well as the peer-reviewed journals Post-Soviet Affairs and Review of Central and East European Law. Professor Kahn is a founding member of the Advisory Board of SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Education Program and a Fellow of the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies.

Zhong Lu is the Shuler-Foscue Endowed Chair and director of graduate studies in the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. His geophysics research focuses on the use of satellite-borne radar to detect subtle changes in the earth’s surface preceding volcanic eruptions. He also researches volcano deformation, earthquake deformation mapping, fault geometry and modeling, and ground-water basin analysis. His work with InSAR (Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar) includes underground nuclear explosion monitoring, landslide monitoring and water-level changes of wetlands. Professor Lu has been awarded more than $3 million in grants from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the U.S. Geological Service, and the U.S. Forest Service.

Bruce Marshall is the Lehman Professor of Christian Doctrine in Perkins School of Theology. He ranks among the top scholars in the world who conduct research and write about the most enduring and debated of Christian beliefs – namely, the doctrine of the Trinity. His research and writing focus on this doctrine, as well as the relationship between Christianity and Judaism. He is also an expert on the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas and has lectured widely throughout the United States and abroad on topics ranging from Trinitarian theology to Christology. Professor Marshall has written two books and more than 90 articles, book chapters, and reviews, and is a frequent speaker in both national and international venues.

SMU names Stephanie L. Knight dean of Simmons School of Education and Human Development

Stephanie L. KnightStephanie L. Knight, a nationally recognized education leader, researcher and professor, has been named dean of SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. The current associate dean and professor of education in the College of Education at Pennsylvania State University will assume her new duties at SMU on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017.

“Stephanie Knight’s impressive background of scholarly excellence and outreach to the education community will enable her to deliver visionary leadership to propel the Simmons School toward even greater visibility and impact,” said Steven C. Currall, SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Stephanie will continue to amplify the school’s commitment to evidence-based scholarship, external research funding and the preparation of exemplary professionals in education and human development. Her history of partnerships with urban and suburban schools equips her to further elevate the school’s contributions to K-12 education in the North Texas region and beyond. Furthermore, Stephanie is deeply committed to collaborations with other academic units on the SMU campus to advance interdisciplinary academic programs and initiatives.”

“Dr. Knight is joining a dynamic school, which will continue its trajectory as an innovative leader in education research and practice under her leadership,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “She understands that education is key to change, from lifting individuals from poverty to opening minds to new understanding, and that will strengthen SMU’s impact on individuals, schools and the world.”

Knight began her education career as a classroom teacher of Spanish and French in Texas, Saudi Arabia and Pennsylvania. She received her doctorate in curriculum and instruction at the University of Houston before beginning a 20-year tenure at Texas A&M University, where she was professor of educational psychology and teaching, learning and culture. In addition, she held the Houston Endowment, Inc. Chair in Urban Education at Texas A&M, received the University Distinguished Teaching Award and was named a University Faculty Fellow. Knight joined Pennsylvania State University in 2009 as professor of educational psychology, where she taught courses in educational psychology and effective learning. In 2013 she became associate dean at Penn State, leading the College of Education’s undergraduate and graduate studies programs.

Her scholarly interests demonstrate a dedication to bringing the results of evidence-based research to the K-12 classroom. Her research into relationships between instructional strategies, classroom processes, learning environments and student outcomes; teacher professional development, and the use of observational techniques to study classroom processes has been published in hundreds of professional journal articles, book chapters and books and presented at numerous professional conferences.

In addition, Knight has directed university and national research centers, including serving as associate director of research into practice for the National Science Foundation Information Technology in Science Center for Teaching and Learning, and director of evaluation and assessment for the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement in Washington, D.C.  She recently concluded five years as co-editor of the Journal of Teacher Education and also served from 2004 to 2006 as co-editor of the Teaching, Learning and Human Development section of the American Educational Research Journal. She currently serves as associate editor of the Review of Educational Research.

“Dr. Stephanie Knight stood out from a large pool of highly qualified candidates due to both her administrative experience and her tenure at tier-one research universities,” said Marc Christensen, chair of the Simmons School dean search committee, and dean and Lyle Professor of Innovation in SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering. “I look forward to working with her on the Council of Deans to advance the University’s academic and research missions.”

Knight earned her B.A. in romance languages and literature at the University of Kentucky, where she was selected for membership in Phi Beta Kappa; her master’s degree and certification in secondary teaching at Lehigh University; and her Ed.D. in educational curriculum and instruction from the University of Houston.

“I am honored, and very excited, to have the opportunity to serve as the next dean of the Simmons School of Education and Human Development,” she said. “Simmons has already established an impressive foundation in its first decade, and I look forward to working with the very talented and productive faculty, staff and students in the school to further their ongoing mission of excellence in research, teaching and community outreach. SMU provides an ideal context for the success of this mission: Location in a dynamic urban context; commitment to academic excellence; support for interdisciplinary approaches that encourage innovation; and a climate of collaboration across and within units that enhances the process and outcomes of our very important work in education and human development. I look forward to becoming an integral member of the SMU and Simmons community.”

— Nancy George

> Read the full story from SMU News

Paige Ware named dean ad interim of SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development

Paige WarePaige Ware, an award-winning scholar, teacher and researcher, has been named interim dean of SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, effective June 30, 2016.

“I am delighted that Professor Paige Ware has accepted my offer to become Dean ad interim,” said Steven C. Currall, SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs. “An extraordinarily accomplished scholar, teacher, and department chair in the Simmons School, Paige is the ideal person to leverage and continue the momentum of the School.  As I consulted widely with members of the School’s community, I repeatedly heard descriptions of the deep respect and affection that Simmons School faculty and staff have for Paige.  I am confident that she will provide inspired leadership of the School.”

Professor Ware joined the SMU faculty in 2003. As chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning in the Simmons School, she designs and teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in education research, diverse learners, literacy, educational psychology, and teacher preparation for working with English-language learners.

She served as director of the Simmons School’s Ph.D. Program in Education and Human Development from 2011-14.

“I feel honored at this opportunity to work with my colleagues, both across the University as well as with our many Simmons partners in the greater Dallas area,” Ware said. “I have deep respect for the types of initiatives that the faculty, staff and students in the Simmons School have developed in their research, teaching, service, and community partnerships. I hope to help sustain and extend this extraordinary growth as we continue to build on the support we receive from the SMU community, our alumni and our area partners.”

Ware’s research focuses on the use of multimedia technologies for fostering language and literacy growth among adolescents, as well as on the use of Internet-based communication for promoting intercultural awareness. Her work has been funded by the International Research Foundation for English Language Education (TIRF), Proyecto de Innovación Docente (Project for Innovative Teaching), the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition, and a National Academy of Education/Spencer Post-Doctoral Fellowship. She also was awarded a Ford Research Fellowship established by SMU trustee Gerald J. Ford.

“Paige Ware is the ideal educator to serve as interim dean of the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “She has demonstrated scholarly and administrative leadership that will ensure a seamless progression of achievement for the Simmons School. She has helped make the Simmons School a pioneer in evidence-based education initiatives, nationally significant research and outreach to local school districts and communities. Under her guidance, the Simmons School will continue its trajectory of outstanding achievement and impact.”

Ware received B.A. degrees in English with a linguistics emphasis and German from the University of Kentucky-Lexington in 1994. She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in education, language, literacy and culture from the University of California-Berkeley in 1999 and 2003, respectively. Fluent in German and Spanish, Ware was a Fulbright Scholar Teaching Fellow in Germany before moving to Spain, where she taught in a bilingual Spanish-English elementary program.

She is co-author of a technology standards book for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and has written or co-written dozens of peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. She is a frequent speaker on technology as an acquisition tool for language and culture and on writing development in adolescent learners.

Ware is an internationally recognized reviewer for peer-reviewed journals and publishers, including Language Learning & Technology, Modern Language Journal, Journal of English for Academic Purposes, the American Educational Research Journal, Journal of Literacy Research, Cambridge University Press, and SAGE Publications.

At programs sponsored by the SMU Center for Teaching Excellence, she mentors faculty colleagues and makes presentations as an Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor and member of the University’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers. Ware also received the Distinguished University Citizen Award for service and activities that benefit SMU’s students and academic mission. In 2013, she was chosen as keynote speaker for the all-University Honors Convocation.

Ware replaces Leon Simmons Dean David J. Chard, who will become president of Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts, on July 1, 2016.

SMU recognizes outstanding achievement at 2015-16 Hilltop Excellence Awards, Honors Convocation

2013 laurelsSMU faculty, staff, administrators and students were recognized with teaching awards, service honors and the University’s highest commendation, the “M” Award, at the 2016 Hilltop Excellence Awards Monday, April 18.

> Read the list of award winners from Honors Convocation 2016

On the same day, the University honored its best students at the 19th Honors Convocation. The address was delivered by Fred Chang, director of SMU’s Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security, the Bobby B. Lyle Endowed Centennial Distinguished Chair in Cyber Security and professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Lyle School of Engineering.

An internationally renowned expert in cyber security and former director of research of the National Security Agency, Chang is also a Senior Fellow in the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences and a Distinguished Scholar in the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas at Austin.

The lead inventor on two U.S. patents, Chang has twice served as an expert witness at hearings convened by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology. In addition, he has served as a member of the Commission on Cyber Security for the 44th Presidency and as a member of the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Academies. Most recently, Chang was elected to the National Academy of Engineering and will be formally inducted during a ceremony at the NAE’s Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 9, 2016.

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Simmons Dean David Chard named president of Wheelock College

David J. ChardDavid J. Chard, the inaugural dean of SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, will become president of Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts, on July 1, 2016.

Following a nationwide search, Wheelock’s board of trustees announced today that Chard will be the college’s 14th president, succeeding Jackie Jenkins-Scott, who concludes her presidency at the end of the current academic year.

“Dr. Chard stood out not only for his outstanding leadership at Southern Methodist University, but for his innovative thinking, focus on diversity and inclusion, and lifelong commitment to education,” said Kate Taylor, chair of the Wheelock College Board of Trustees.  Founded in 1888, Wheelock College focuses on preparing students for careers in education, social work and child life.

“David Chard has been the ideal dean to build the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development as a national resource with a particular impact on our community,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “He has led programs and attracted research funding that will strengthen the quality of education through evidence-based practices. He has made the Simmons school a strategic partner with the community in improving education opportunities for under-served young people. He is a national leader in education. We wish him the best of success at Wheelock.”

Steven Currall, SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs, will appoint an interim dean prior to Dean Chard’s departure from SMU. An international search for the next dean will take place during the 2016-17 academic year, with a new dean coming aboard ideally by July 1, 2017.

Chard became the school’s first endowed dean in 2007. The school was named that year with a historic $20 million gift to SMU from Harold and Annette Caldwell Simmons ’57 of Dallas. He expanded one department and several programs to five departments: Teaching and Learning, Education Policy and Leadership, Counseling and Dispute Resolution, Applied Physiology and Sport Management and Graduate Liberal Studies. The school now offers a total of 15 graduate degree programs and two undergraduate degree programs.

Under his leadership, the school has grown from 13 full-time faculty members and 42 staff members to 80 full-time faculty members and 86 full-time staff members. Research funding has increased to $36 million since 2007.

Chard oversaw the establishment of the school’s two halls and developed community outreach programs to complement the degree offerings. These include The Budd Center: Involving Communities in Education, the Center on Research and Evaluation, Research in Mathematics Education, college access programs and a family counseling center with two satellite clinics.

“As Wheelock College’s new president, David Chard will bring a new vision, fresh talent and renewed energy to the college,” said Currall. “David will deliver his bold leadership to a college specializing in educational programs that transform lives. He will motivate and guide new generations of professionals who empower others for leadership and impact. All of us at SMU congratulate David and thank him for his exemplary service. Through his leadership of the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, David’s impact on SMU and Dallas has been immense and will last for many years to come.”

Known nationally as an education reformer, Chard shaped the school to attract high quality research faculty and deliver evidence-based teaching. He has advocated for Simmons research to be used within the professional fields.

Chard was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Board of Directors of the National Board for Education Sciences in 2012 and elected chair. The board oversees and directs the work of the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education.

He holds a Ph.D. in special education from the University of Oregon and is a member of the International Academy for Research on Learning Disabilities, president of the Division for Learning Disabilities in the Council for Exceptional Children and a co-founding member of Deans for Impact. He also serves on numerous local and regional boards. Since 1993, his research has been awarded more than $11 million in federal, state or private grants. In 2015, SMU recognized Chard with the “M” Award, the University’s highest commendation.

Prior to SMU, he served as associate dean for curriculum and academic programs and assistant/associate professor of special education at the University of Oregon.

Eleven SMU professors receive 2015-16 Sam Taylor Fellowships

Eleven SMU faculty members have received 2015-16 Sam Taylor Fellowships from the Sam Taylor Fellowship Fund of the Division of Higher Education, United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

The Fellowships, funded by income from a portion of Taylor’s estate, award up to $2,000 for full-time faculty members at United Methodist-related colleges and universities in Texas. Any full-time faculty member is eligible to apply for the Fellowships, which support research, “advancing the intellectual, social or religious life of Texas and the nation.”

Applications are evaluated on the significance of the project, clarity of the proposal, professional development of the applicant, value of the project to the community or nation and the project’s sensitivity to value questions confronting higher education and society.

The winning professors for this academic year, and their projects:

• Karisa Cloward, Political Science, Dedman College, for field research on NGOs in Kenya

Anna Kim, Advertising, Meadows School of the Arts, for analysis of effectiveness of narrative advertising

Stephanie Langin-Hooper, Art History, Meadows School of the Arts, for reproduction of museum artifacts in an upcoming article on Babylonian figurines

Karen Lupo, Anthropology, Dedman College, to collect sediment cores in the Democratic Republic of Congo for a study of the central African rainforest

Jamal Mohamed, Music, Meadows School of the Arts, for travel to Indonesia to study Gamelan music of west Java

Sid Muralidharan, Advertising, Meadows School of the Arts, to collect survey data to study effectiveness of environmental advertising

Alexandra Pavlakis, Education Policy and Leadership, Simmons School of Education and Human Development, for a research study in a Dallas after-school center for homeless students

Nicolas Sternsdorff-Cisterna, Anthropology, Dedman College, for travel to Japan for a study on food safety after Fukushima

Hervé Tchumkam, World Languages and Literatures (French and Francophone Studies), Dedman College, for travel to research Cameroonian deaths and disappearances

Roberto Vega, Physics, Dedman College, to support collaborative research on high-energy physics

HyeJin Yoon, Advertising, Meadows School of the Arts, for a survey to analyze effectiveness of health public-service advertising

Research: SMU study shows intensive (and immediate) intervention is crucial in helping struggling readers succeed

SMU reading researcher Stephanie Al Otaiba

SMU reading researcher Stephanie Al Otaiba

Instructors who give struggling readers intensive and immediate help will enjoy “significantly” improved learning outcomes over those who adhere to the traditional “fail first” model, according to a new study by SMU researchers.

The study found that reading skills improve very little when schools follow current standard practice of waiting for struggling readers to fail before providing them with additional help. In contrast, a dynamic intervention in which at-risk readers received the most intensive help immediately enabled these students to significantly outperform their peers who had to wait for additional help, says the study’s lead author, SMU’s Stephanie Al Otaiba.

“We studied how well struggling readers respond to generally effective standard protocols of intervention to help them improve. We found that how those interventions are provided within a school — how immediately they are provided — makes an important difference,” says Al Otaiba, professor of teaching and learning in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.

Proficient reading is critical, and early intervention is imperative, says co-author and academic skills measurement expert Paul Yovanoff, also a professor of teaching and learning in the Simmons School. About 40 percent of U.S. children in fourth grade do not read at a proficient level, Yovanoff adds.

“We’re not talking about a small group of children,” he says. “We’re talking about a large group. And the number is higher in urban areas and higher among minority students. How can these kids grow up and participate in society as moms and dads in the economy unless they’re literate? Reading is a bottleneck for their success in school and in life.”

A wait-to-fail system can be the unintended consequence of response to intervention as it’s currently practiced in U.S. schools, the researchers say. “If you have to wait a certain time to demonstrate that you need more help, then it’s a wait-to-fail system,” Yovanoff says. “Good teaching would collect frequent information about the student’s performance and adjust help appropriately.”

The study, initiated in 2011, followed 522 first-grade public school students for three years through third grade. At the start of the study, the children were young beginning readers with the poorest initial reading skills, who were struggling and at risk for developing reading disabilities.

“We contrasted the multi-tier model with what we call a dynamic model, where we gave kids with the weakest initial skills the strongest intervention right away,” Al Otaiba says. “The kids in the dynamic system outperformed the kids who got help later.”

The researchers followed up on the students in third grade, and found that those that had received the immediate intensive intervention continued to outperform the children who had to wait, Al Otaiba says.

The research was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health. The study’s co-author is Jeanne Wanzek of the Florida Center for Reading Research, Florida State University.

The researchers reported the findings in their article “Response to Intervention” in the European Scientific Journal.

— Margaret Allen

> Read the full story at the SMU Research website

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