CORE is engaged with the Walton Family Foundation to launch The Advancing Evaluation in Philanthropy Fellowship program to help support the next generation of evaluators working in philanthropy. The two-year-long fellowships will focus on developing professionals of color and utilizing more culturally responsive evaluation designs. With the support of the Walton Family Foundation, CORE will be able to help Fellows gain rigorous and real-world experience in research and evaluation in philanthropy. Read more here.
Dallas (SMU) – In the year 2026, when the first students to attend the West Dallas STEM School receive their high school diplomas, two of those students will receive scholarships to SMU thanks to new financial aid programs created by the SMU Student Senate.
When Austin Hickle was elected SMU student body president in 2021, he was determined to inspire other student leaders to leave a legacy of opportunity for future SMU students faced with economic challenges. With his leadership, the 2021-2022 Student Senate has created two need-based scholarships – one to help students in SMU’s Rotunda Scholars Program, and one to help students from the SMU-supported Dallas ISD STEM school, who will begin applying to college in other four years.
“This is SMU students’ chance to extend a helping hand to other students,” Hickle says.
The Senate voted to award $100,000 to the Rotunda Scholars Program, a program designed to help first-year students achieve early success at SMU by promoting academic achievement, leadership and personal excellence. Members of the program are often first-generation college students attending SMU on merit and financial-need scholarships. The Student Senate Rotunda Scholars Grant Award provides funds for expenses often not provided by other scholarships, such as books, computers, membership fees for honorary organizations and study abroad.
The second scholarship, for students who attended Dallas ISD’s West Dallas STEM School, won’t be awarded until 2026. That’s when eighth-graders at the newly opened school will apply to college. The K-8 school is a collaboration between Dallas ISD, Toyota and SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, designed to bring top-notch STEM education to students in West Dallas, where incomes and opportunity tend to lag behind other areas of the city.
Hickle has been involved with the West Dallas STEM School since he was a first-year student and scheduled an appointment with Stephanie Knight, dean of SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, to discuss education equity. In turn, Knight shared her own passion, the West Dallas STEM School. After discussing their shared goals, Knight appointed Hickle to the school planning leadership team and college and career readiness committee. Hickle also volunteers at the school, which opened to 7th and 8th graders in fall 2021.
“I became determined to enhance the opportunities for students from lower-income families and build on the growing connections between the STEM School and SMU,” Hickle says. “When I brought the West Dallas STEM School scholarship proposal to the Student Senate for vote, every elected student senator voted in favor of using student fees to support underrepresented Dallas students. The Student Senate pledged $50,000 a year to build a scholarship fund for future graduates of the West Dallas STEM School.”
Hickle graduates from SMU in May, 2022. He earned a Fulbright grant to teach students in South Korea in 2022-23, then he plans to return to the U.S. and use his Truman Scholarship to earn a law degree and a Master’s degree in education.
“Under the capable guidance of future SMU student leaders who will follow me, I hope these scholarship funds are only the beginning of a legacy of improving equity and creating a school that supports all students,” Hickle says.
His support for student scholarships is in good hands with the next SMU student body president. In addition to other leadership honors, incoming SMU Student Body President Sydney Castle is an SMU Rotunda Scholar.
Professor Leanne Ketterlin Geller gave the address at SMU’s 2022 Honors Convocation. She advised students to understand not only what they do, but why they do it. Also, she said it was important to find “your people” for intellectual and emotional support. Lastly, set “hairy, audacious goals,” ones that are worth fighting for, even when feeling at the lowest ebb. Her introduction by President R. Gerald Turner starts at 26:05. See the video below.
DALLAS (SMU) – Dominique J. Baker, a nationally recognized expert on education policy in SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, has received an emerging scholars pipeline grant to explore the links between race, racism, and how student loan policies are covered in media.
The $30,000 grant is from the Russell Sage Foundation (RSF), in partnership with the Economic Mobility and Opportunity program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Using SMU’s high performance computing cluster, Baker will analyze more than 90,000 newspaper articles from eight outlets to determine how often, if at all, news media outlets use words or phrases that convey ideas about race and racism when writing about student loans. She will explore both what the articles communicated and how words and phrases were used within the articles.
Words matter, Baker said, because “media discourse on student loans, including the way that race, racism, and student loans intersect in the framing of the issue, plays a significant role in the public and policy actors’ understanding of student loans’ challenges and potential solutions.”
“Focusing on policy communication through the media will help to ensure that the public and policy actors do not rely on decontextualized and race-neutral understandings of student loan debt,” she said.
Americans owe a record-breaking $1.7 trillion in student loan debt. Multiple studies, including research done by Baker, have shown that black college students are especially hard hit by student debt, in part because they are more likely to take on higher amounts of debt while earning less than their peers. Reasons for that are many, including labor market discrimination and inequities in students’ and families’ ability to afford college due to centuries of deliberate policymaking decisions in the United States, Baker said.
Baker was one of 23 professors who received the RSF-Gates Pipeline Grant, which is designed to support early- and mid-career tenure-track scholars who are underrepresented in the social sciences and to promote diversity broadly, including racial, ethnic, gender, disciplinary, institutional, and geographic diversity.
SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development advances for the third consecutive year in U.S. News & World Report 2023 national rankings released online on March 29. The Simmons School ranks 54 in public and private graduate schools of education, rising from 59 last year. Previously, the school’s placement was 63, which represented a significant leap from 105 in 2021.
This progression reflects continued upward growth for the school’s placement among top public and private education schools. Simmons now has moved from the top 15 private graduate schools to the top 12.
In the state, only UT Texas at Austin and Texas A&M at College Station have a ranking higher than Simmons.
“Our ranking is shaped by many factors, but what our research faculty members are doing is extraordinary. External funding per faculty member is $323.8 thousand and our researchers’ determination to pursue important work is setting a grant funding record at SMU,” says Leon Simmons Endowed Dean Stephanie L. Knight.
“We know the Covid pandemic impacted students and their families with many challenges, but now what we can do as educators is to assess and improve learning. The evidence-based practices we teach in Simmons are defined by our research.”
To rank schools of education, U.S. News & World Report considers measures of academic quality, including faculty resources, student selectivity, doctoral degrees granted, in addition to peer assessment scores and research activity. Rankings for 2023 were assessed for 274 schools.
West Dallas STEM School Inspires Toyota’s
$110M ‘Driving Possibilities’ Program
by Kevin Cummings • Mar 3, 2022
Based on the success seen at a West Dallas school, Toyota is taking its STEM-focused educational model across the country. The Toyota USA Foundation announced the launch of a new education and community-focused initiative called Driving Possibilities. And it’s putting $110 million behind it.
“We need to better prepare the workforce of the future by providing a broader education and getting the next generation ready for high-growth careers,” said Ted Ogawa, CEO of Toyota Motor North America, in a statement. “In addition, addressing inequities that create barriers to success will help improve lives throughout the U.S.”
West Dallas origins
The company, which has its North American headquarters in Plano, said the aim of the program is to drive innovation and remove barriers to access in education, and to prepare students in pre-K through 12th grade for the workforce.
On the educational side, Driving Possibilities will be modeled after the West Dallas STEM School, which serves pre-K through 8th grade students with a project-based STEM curriculum, in addition to providing professional development to teachers and coordinating community services.
The West Dallas STEM School opened last August, supported by around $5 million in donations from Toyota and a collaboration between Dallas ISD and Southern Methodist University. In addition to offering extracurricular programs, the West Dallas school acts as a community center and food pantry.
“This partnership has afforded us the space to realize what’s possible when we focus our collective efforts on changing how we meet the needs of our students and families,” said Marion Jackson, principal at the West Dallas school, in a statement last year. “We’re committed to equipping our students to succeed in an evolving global society.”
Helping out in the community
In addition to the educational aspect, the Driving Possibilities initiative includes a focus on community engagement, with things like job training, mobility services, and food insecurity alleviation. Toyota said it’s looking to partner with other companies, local governments, educators, and nonprofits to meet those needs.
The initiative, which is being funded by Toyota Motor North America and Toyota Financial Services, will be rolling out across Toyota’s “operational communities” nationwide.
“Through our active partnerships with communities across the U.S., we collaborate to improve education and help shape the future for the next generation,” said Mark Templin, CEO at Toyota Financial Services, in a statement.
DALLAS (SMU) – Renowned mathematics researcher Leanne Ketterlin Geller, Texas Instruments Endowed Chair in Education in the Simmons School of Education and Human Development, has been awarded the largest single-year research award in SMU history.
The nearly $8 million research award from the U.S. Department of Education will allow her team to adapt for use through grade 8 a program originally developed for fourth-graders. The intervention is aimed at helping better prepare students for high school algebra – the “make-or-break” prerequisite for higher math studies that students need for college and/or STEM careers.
The grant will support randomized controlled trials across two states among students in grades 4-8 to determine the effectiveness of a program called “Fraction Face-Off.” The trials will measure success among a diverse group of students experiencing math difficulties across urban, suburban and rural geographies, and will include comparisons between in-person and virtual training of interventionists.
“Many students experience difficulty with fractions in elementary school and then continue to have difficulty as they move through middle school,” said Ketterlin Geller. “When they start algebra, this difficulty becomes increasingly problematic because proficiency in fractions is highly related to algebraic readiness.”
Fraction Face-Off has shown evidence of effectiveness at Grade 4. But Ketterlin Geller points out that the original studies were done with smaller samples in one geographic region of the country.
“We seek to extend this original research with much larger diverse populations in two different states,” she said. “We will then test the effectiveness of this intervention for students in upper elementary and middle schools who need more intensive instructional support to be ready for algebra.”
Ketterlin Geller is director of Research in Mathematics Education in the Simmons School. Her research is informed by her previous experience in K-12 education, having taught high school science in public schools and trained as a K-12 administrator. If the research team is able to demonstrate effectiveness with a larger, more diverse group, Ketterlin Geller said, she hopes usage of the program will expand and student outcomes will improve.
Ketterlin Geller and SMU will take the lead in working with investigators from the American Institute for Research, University of Texas – Austin and University of Missouri. The $7.99 million award for research over a five-year period will be processed this fiscal year.
An unprecedented number of resignations from school superintendents in North Texas prompted questions about the slew of exits. The superintendents from Dallas and Fort Worth announced their resignations on the same day, and seven other education leaders have said they also are leaving. Pressures from the pandemic and the political battles waged around public education have made it difficult to lead.
“The most detrimental part of it is that the superintendents are dealing with extreme polarization around almost any decision that they make,” Dean Knight said. “It would be a mistake to say that they’re running away from the job or the situation. They may be running toward a job that would enable them to have the impact that they don’t feel they could have right now as superintendent.”
For more on the story, read here.
Education Policy and Leadership faculty members Alex Pavlakis and Meredith Richards, and postdoctorate fellow Kessa Roberts, have been awarded an American Institute for Research Center for Education Equity Mini-Research grant.
The grant, “Compound Trauma and Resilience Amid Crisis: Student Homelessness in the Context of COVID-19 and Natural Disasters” totals $24,985. Simmons Higher Education master’s student, Maria Jose Hernandez, will also contribute to the research.
Les Black, clinical professor in education policy and law, comments on Lewisville ISD’s recent closure due to Covid. Because of teacher shortages, all districts are competing with each other for staffing, he says. The CBS 11 report is here.