SMU Honors Jill Allor by Naming Her a Distinguished University Professor

Distinguished University Professor Jill Allor, Ed.D, Department of Teaching and Learning

Provost Elizabeth Loboa has named Teaching and Learning Professor Jill Allor a Distinguished University Professor for her excellence in teaching, researching, and community service. Allor is one of two SMU faculty members recognized this year for the highest levels of academic achievement.

The honor is based on recommendations from deans and endorsed by the Office of the Provost. The University Distinguished Professorships were created in 1982 by SMU’s Board of Trustees to celebrate outstanding faculty members, who receive cash awards of $10,000 per year and are appointed for a five-year rolling term.

Since arriving at SMU in 2004, Professor Allor has developed and maintained a highly productive research agenda across a broad range of topics within her field: structured literacy tutoring for elementary readers, alternative assessment models for students with intellectual disabilities and below average IQs, and approaches for promoting literacy among pre-school level readers.  She is a former special education teacher whose research is school-based and focuses on reading acquisition for students with and without disabilities, including students with learning disabilities and intellectual disabilities.

She has published 31 peer-reviewed journal articles and seven book chapters. During her time at SMU she has received $7 million dollars in external research funding and has presented at 65 conferences.

Professor Allor has taught a broad range of courses, including literacy, assessment, quantitative methods, curriculum/instruction, and special education.  She has also supervised Simmons’ doctoral students through dissertation.

Throughout her SMU career, Allor has maintained a strong commitment to service – to Simmons, SMU and the national community. In Simmons, for example, she served as chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning for nine years.

Allor received her Ed.D. in special education with an emphasis on reading and reading disabilities from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. Prior to arriving at SMU in 2004, she held faculty appointments at Florida State University and Louisiana State University.

Learn more about her work here:

 

 

Dominique Baker Delivers Evidence Brief on Pandemic Strategies for EdResearch Recovery Project

Dominique Baker, Ph.D., Education Policy and Leadership

The Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University and Results for America announced the new EdResearch for Recovery Project, which will provide rapid-turnaround evidence briefs from top researchers to help answer the most pressing education-related questions from policymakers, educators, parents and other advocates as they respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of the project launch, the Annenberg Institute and Results for America released the first three evidence briefs, one of which is co-authored by Simmons Assistant Professor Dominique Baker with Sade Bonilla (University of Massachusetts at Amherst) and Celeste K. Carruthers (University of Tennessee at Knoxville. The brief   synthesizes ways to support and guide students moving into their post secondary education.

“This project responds to a direct ask from education decision makers to better synthesize research in ways that respond to the needs of the moment,” said Nate Schwartz, Professor of Practice at Brown University’s Annenberg Institute. “Starting with a series of crowdsourced questions from leaders at the state and district levels, we enlisted some of the nation’s leading researchers to develop rapid-response briefs that clearly lay out the evidence base to guide current decision making.”

The project is supported by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

 

 

 

 

 

Ketterlin Geller and Lyle Colleagues Discuss NSF Research on Gaming for Teaching STEM and Computing

Simmons Professor Leanne Ketterlin Geller and co-principal investigators at the Lyle School, Associate Professor Eric Larson, and Assistant Professor Corey Clark, talk about the impetus behind their $1.5 million National Science Foundation grant allowing them to develop a videogame to teach computational thinking. Computational thinking should begin in Pre-K and followed through Grade 12, but as Ketterlin Geller notes getting students engaged in math and science is difficult.

In a recent article featured in Lyle Now, they discuss how their inspiration to use a Minecraft-based game for teaching came from the literacy game Simmons, Guildhall, and Literacy for Texas collaborated on for the Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy X-Prize competition. The game won the grand prize, and Clark says, “We figured if educational gaming can help teach literacy concepts, why not use it to teach math, science and computational thinking by converting it into Minecraft?” Clark, also deputy director of research at SMU Guildhall, is an education gaming expert who constructed the X-Prize game.

SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development Professor and Texas Instruments Endowed Chair in Education Leanne Ketterlin Geller

Ketterlin Geller says the research team is speaking to local school districts about potential collaborations. “Having student and teacher voices in the ultimate design and dissemination of the project will help with its implementation, longevity, and sustainability.”

Their feedback is essential because the team is striving for key education outcomes such as engaging in gameplay; changes in students’ interest, attitudes, beliefs and self-efficacy in STEM+C; involvement in collaborative, open-ended solutions; and achievement in related computing and mathematics concepts. Research for this project began last fall and continues through 2022.

Pavlakis and Richards Receive Spencer Grant to Expand Research on Homeless Students during Pandemic

 As COVID-19 hits all regions of the country, Education Policy and Leadership professors Alexandra Pavlakis, Ph.D. and Meredith Richards, Ph.D. believe the pandemic has deep implications for homeless students, a population they have been researching in Houston, where a large displacement of people began with Hurricane Harvey.
 A new Spencer Foundation grant of $50,000 allows them to examine how the two disasters are shaping homeless students and families, and the practices of school and community providers. They are paying particular attention to geography because of how COVID-19 manifests in low income areas.
 “We employ a novel mixed-method research approach informed by principles of environmental justice and geospatial techniques, and incorporate them into a qualitative case study of COVID-19 and homelessness in Houston,” Pavlakis and Richards say.  “It is imperative that this research be conducted now to support schools, communities, and homeless families in the midst of this double crisis.”

 Pavlakis and Richards work with SMU Simmons post-doctoral fellow Kessa Roberts, Ph.D., and with partners, Houston ISD and the Houston Education Research Consortium. In addition to the Spencer Foundation, the Moody Foundation and SMU’s University Research Council support the research.

Associate Professor Meredith Richards, Assistant Professor Alexandra Pavlakis, and Simmons post-doctoral fellow Kessa Roberts conduct research on homeless students in Houston ISD.

SMU’s Moody School of Graduate Studies Awards Dissertation Fellowship to Simmons’ Mellado De La Cruz

Veronica Mellado De La Cruz, Ph.D. student, Simmons School of Education and Human Development

Veronica Mellado De La Cruz, a Ph.D. student in Simmons, has been awarded a 2020-21 Moody Dissertation Fellowship from the Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies. Her award of $30,000 will help her research her dissertation topic that focuses on early reading assessments in English and Spanish for emerging bilingual students. She is one of four Moody Dissertation Fellows this year.

Her proposed work is an extension of a larger, and now complete, Institute of Education Science-funded project exploring brief, published tests for effectively measuring kindergartners’ early literacy growth and efficiently predicting reading difficulties (PI Nathan Clemens; Co-PI Stephanie Al Otaiba).

“When I joined the project and as my training in the Ph.D. program progressed, I began to formulate questions about whether scores on first language early literacy skills might be helpful to educators who use these data for instructional decisions,” she says.

Professor Stephanie Al Otaiba, dissertation advisor, says Mellado De La Cruz  has had extensive training experiences at SMU through a doctoral training grant, the National Center for Leadership on Intensive Intervention, and workshops on learning different analytic methods. “She has already authored and co-authored several publications in peer-reviewed journals, and has made presentations at national conferences,” she says. “Veronica is likely to go on to have a position in educational research for the vulnerable population of students with intensive intervention needs.”

Mellado De La Cruz received her B.A. in Psychology from SMU in 2007, and says that years later when she developed an interest in education research, she reached out to Simmons faculty. Her contact with them lead her to apply for the doctoral program.”I am a Pony through and through!,” she adds.

 

 

 

Gándara Examines Higher Ed Access at Public Institutions with Performance-based Funding Policies

Assistant Professor Denisa Gándara, Dept. of Education Policy and Leadership, looks at performance-based funding (PBF) policies, intended to improve college completion by linking state funding for public colleges and universities to performance measures, and sees if this causes institutions to restrict student access.

In her latest study, published in AERA’s Educational Researcher, she uses a difference-in-differences design and institution-level data from 2001 to 2014 to examine whether 4-year, public institutions become more selective or enroll fewer underrepresented students under PBF.

Her findings suggest that institutions subject to PBF enroll students with higher standardized test scores and enroll fewer first-generation students. PBF models tied to institutions’ base funding are more strongly associated with increased standardized test scores and enrollment of Pell students.

Gándara co-wrote the study with Indiana University’s Amanda Rutherford.

Virtual Community Meeting for West Dallas STEM School Set for June 8, 2020

You are invited to attend a virtual community meeting to discuss plans for the new West Dallas STEM School at Pinkston. The meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, June 8, 2020, online at www.dallasisd.org/Bond2015Meetings. Dallas Independent School District representatives will be in attendance to make a presentation and answer questions about the project. Spanish translation will be available. Dallas ISD’s planning for the school has been done in partnership with Toyota USA Foundation, SMU Simmons, and the West Dallas Community.

STEM Videos by Simmons Faculty Receive Awards from NSF’s Voting Public

Faculty members Leanne Ketterlin Geller, Ph.D. (Education Policy and Leadership), and Candace Walkington, Ph.D. (Teaching & Learning), created winning videos about their STEM research for a National Science Foundation showcase competition, May 5-12. A voting public selected the top videos.

Professor Ketterlin Geller and her team, Research in Mathematics Education, received the Public Choice award, and  Associate Professor Candace Walkington and her co-researchers received the  Facilitators’ Choice award.

Ketterlin Geller’s video “Developing STEM Access in Students K-2 through MMaRS” illustrates research on two early predictors of mathematics success in K-2 students: numerical relational reasoning and spatial reasoning. Researchers describe what underlies the project and an elementary school principal articulates the importance of an assessment to identify student thinking and guide teacher instruction. View video here:

https://stemforall2020.videohall.com/presentations/1717

Walkington’s presentation, “The Hidden Village: Mathematical Reasoning Through Movement,” looks at a motion capture Kinect video game for learning high school geometry that was initially developed through a collaboration between the Simmons School of Education and Human Development at SMU, the Guildhall at SMU, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The project was funded by The Institute of Educational Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education, in an award given to the University of Wisconsin. View video here:

https://stemforall2020.videohall.com/presentations/1662

 

 

Ph.D. Student Mark Pierce Receives Maguire Public Service Fellowship

This summer, Simmons Ph.D. candidate Mark Pierce joins nine other SMU students in serving as a  Maguire Public Service Fellow, to work on research and programs related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

His project focuses on researching adaptable models of distance learning that can be implemented for highly mobile students by collecting data from Dallas area family shelters and children’s support organizations during the COVID-19 outbreak. Pierce will receive a $2400 stipend and present his findings at a public seminar in the fall. His doctoral advisor is Assistant Professor Alexandra Pavlakis in the Department of Education Policy and Leadership.

Over the past 20 years, the Maguire Center has awarded summer fellowship stipends totaling over $400,000 to 181 SMU students, including volunteers in more than 150 agencies across 18 states, 25 countries, and five continents.

Faculty Promotions in Simmons

With the conclusion of the spring semester the Simmons School is happy to announce the following faculty promotions:

Congratulations to Michael Harris (Education Policy and Leadership) who was promoted to Full Professor, and to Sushmita Purkayastha (Applied Physiology and Wellness) and Meredith Richards (Education Policy and Leadership) who received tenure and were promoted to Associate Professors.

Clinical faculty promotions include four who moved from Clinical Assistant to Clinical Associate status:  Roxanne Burleson (Education Policy and Leadership), Greta Davis (Dispute Resolution and Counseling), Amy Ferrell (Teaching and Learning), and Diane Gifford (Teaching and Learning).  Three faculty were promoted from Clinical Associate to Clinical Full: Margaret Jacome (Dispute Resolution and Counseling), Misty Solt (Dispute Resolution and Counseling, and Ashley Tull (Education Policy and Leadership). Plaudits to them.