The Dallas Morning News gives a thorough look at how a teacher can administer quick literacy tests to assess how students are progressing, as they build up their knowledge after staying at home during the pandemic.
Featured is Kindergarten teacher Michelle Davis, who is getting a graduate degree in education from the Simmons School. One of her professors, Diane Gifford, Ph.D., explains why this approach is effective in getting students up to speed. For a full version of the story, read more.
Assistant Profesor of Higher Education Denisa Gándara is one of five early-career researchers selected by the William T. Grant Foundation to receive $350,000 “to execute rigorous five-year research plans that stretch their skills and knowledge into new disciplines, content areas, or methods.”
Gándara will examine how the administrative burdens of free-college programs, such as eligibility criteria and application processes, impact college enrollment and degree completion for racially or ethnically minoritized students. She aims to provide a more complete understanding of how administrative burdens affect students from different racial or ethnic groups, and, ultimately, to inform program design in ways that help reduce gaps in program take-up and degree attainment.
“By supporting their research agendas and professional development, the William T. Grant Scholars Program seeks to contribute to a bright new generation of scholars who will bring rigorous research to youth policies, programs, and practices in the U.S.,” said the Grant Foundation’s Senior Vice President Vivian Tseng.
DALLAS (SMU) May, 4, 2021 – In West Dallas a new Pre K-8 STEM school is set to open this August beginning with students in the 7th and 8th grades. The West Dallas STEM School, a Dallas Independent School District Transformation and Innovation School, is the result of more than three years of collaboration between the District, the Toyota USA Foundation, SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development and the West Dallas community.
“We strongly believe that all children should have equal access to opportunities and a pathway to great careers,” said Sean Suggs, director, Toyota USA Foundation and group vice president, Toyota Social Innovation. “Together with the community, we have worked on everything from building design, teacher development, curriculum and before and after school care. This extends also to addressing broader community needs, including access to transportation.”
To support the school as it opens and its new Master Principal Marion Jackson, the Toyota USA Foundation approved an additional grant of $3 million to SMU, adding to the $2 million grant the foundation awarded in September 2018. This is in addition to Toyota’s teacher and community grants, West Dallas scholarship and mentorship programs, and the recently launched transportation circulator in the area.
“We know that there many related issues – from access to healthy food to before and after school care – that all tie into academic success. This is something we need to collectively address, and we encourage additional partners to come alongside the effort,” added Suggs.
To further support the school, business leader Carter Creech, an SMU alumnus with a passion for education philanthropy, has pledged an additional $3.5 million, following his initial gift of $1.5 million to the project. Creech’s contribution will go toward a new middle school career and college readiness pilot program at the school, as well as efforts to replicate the West Dallas STEM school.
“As we move from planning to implementation, we have deepened our commitment to the school, to the model, and to each other,” said Simmons School Dean Stephanie Knight. “SMU is grateful for this unique partnership, and thanks both the Toyota Foundation USA and Carter Creech for continued investment in our community’s children – the problem solvers of the future.”
The West Dallas STEM School Program at Pinkston
The West Dallas STEM School Program at Pinkston is a neighborhood school that will begin by serving the 7th and 8th grade. PreK – 1st grade is scheduled to begin enrollment in 2023.
The school brings together four integral components to create an innovative PK – 8 school model:
A project-based, industry-informed STEM curriculum
Professional development for educators
“Wraparound” services delivered directly to the students by community nonprofit organizations to help with issues such as literacy, nutrition, transportation and after-school care
Evaluation and measurement to support a model of continuous improvement
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime for the students and community of West Dallas,” principal Jackson said. “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. We are committed to equipping our students to succeed in an evolving global society.”
SMU’s Simmons School is providing faculty expertise to develop project-based learning, which means that students will learn by working in groups to solve open-ended problems using design, engineering, math, science and technology. The approach prepares students to take on new challenges as they occur – and to understand how to build new knowledge on existing concepts. The Simmons School will provide professional development for teachers, and Simmons researchers will monitor and evaluate the program as it evolves, developing a model to create other STEM-focused schools.
Partnering with the West Dallas Community
Since the onset, the West Dallas community has been engaged in the creation of the school, advising on everything from design to input on services offered at the school.
Parents, such as José Alas, who sits on the school’s advisory council, have been engaged from the beginning. “This school really will help bridge the gap in opportunities when it comes to education,” he says. “Every child has the potential to do great things if we can provide them what they need, and I think the school is going to do just that. We always juggle where to send our children and now we are going to have one of the best schools in our backyard.”
Organizations such as West Dallas One and the West Dallas Community Coalition also have been active in the partnership, participating in the school’s design teams and focus groups with residents. Additionally, six long-established West Dallas nonprofit groups have been working on plans to expand their services within the school to help students and their families gain quick access to resources they need.
DALLAS (SMU) – A World Athletics panel ruling that Paralympic sprinter Blake Leeper cannot compete using unnaturally long, blade-like prostheses at the Tokyo Olympics was based on research led by renowned SMU human speed expert Peter Weyand.
The governing body for track and field athletes said Monday that Leeper’s disproportionately long prostheses, would give him an “overall competitive advantage”. The ruling follows testing by Weyand and University of Montana professor Matt Bundle on Leeper and his running specific prostheses (RSPs) at SMU Locomotor Performance Laboratory.
In their report to the panel, Weyand and Bundle provided a detailed explanation of why, all other things being equal, increased leg length causes increased running speed. Previous Weyand studies have shown there is a close correlation between an athlete’s leg length and ground contact length, such as the distance that a runner’s body travels while their foot is in contact with the ground.
“If the height of Mr. Leeper’s RSPs was reduced by 15 centimeters to his natural anatomical leg length so that Mr. Leeper ran at his Maximum Allowable Standing Height (MASH), then his top speed would be likely to reduce from 11.4 m/s to 9.8 m/s, and his overall 400m time would be likely to increase by approximately eight seconds,” Weyand and Bundle wrote.
Leeper, who was born without legs below his knees, won two Paralympic medals at London 2012 and had appealed with World Athletics to be able to compete in the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Tests done at Southern Methodist University in February and March determined that Leeper’s standing height was measured at 184 centimeters with a leg length of 104 centimeters.
Under the panel’s Maximum Allowable Standing Height (MASH) rule, the 31-year-old American double amputee is not permitted to run at a height greater than 174.4 centimeters.
“The decision means Mr Leeper cannot compete wearing these new RSPs at World Athletics’ major international events… or the Olympic Games,” World Athletics said in a statement on Monday.
Teresa Valerio Parrot, a higher education doctoral student in Simmons, offers a good historical perspective in a Washington Post Op-ed on efforts to reform college athletics for a century. Despite these, nothing has really happened, she says. “Real change and reform will occur only when leaders are willing to rethink this prioritization of profits and turn down the endorsement and media dollars associated with competition.” Read the article here.
Reading experts Allor and Gifford emphasize basic skills. As Gifford says, “Students should learn the foundational skills necessary to read by the end of second grade. When students have gaps in their learning, they are likely to struggle until those gaps are filled. Even before COVID-19, 65 percent of fourth-graders in 2019 were reading below grade level.”
Allor says phonics is essential for reading comprehension. “Children who have difficulty reading most often have trouble with the ability to understand how letters relate to sounds,” she says. “Research shows that students who struggle most often need more systematic and explicit phonics instruction. Some very popular reading programs are not consistent with research. If schools use these programs for intervention, many students will continue to struggle.”
Math researcher Leanne Ketterlin Geller believes math requires more dedicated time. “If students miss a concept—addition, for example—it will hinder them from understanding concepts they’ll learn later, like multiplication,” she says. “Students will need more math instruction than the standard time allotment if they are to catch up.”
Annie Wilhelm adds that it is time to teach math in a new way, “The current model of teaching math as a series of disjointed topics limits students’ development of conceptual understanding. Instead of being taught a new set of procedures to master, students need to wrestle with how new ideas might fit with things they already understand.”
Using technology helps appeal to students’ personal interests, and that is important, says Candace Walkington. “Research shows that the most effective math instruction is relevant to students’ lives and interests and based in real-world problems.”In-person teaching can use technology to re-ignite students’ interest by using augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and game-based learning to simulate real life in math problems”
The Texas Tribune cited Professor Michael Harris’s observations on a bill proposing to revoke faculty tenure should professors file a civil lawsuit against students. Harris, whose primary research centers on the organization and governance of higher education, is interim chair of the Department of Education Policy and Leadership in Simmons and directs the Center for Teaching Excellence at SMU.
At issue is a UT Austin professor who sued some students for libel after they accused him of promoting pedophilia in his research. “This is legislative micromanagement that will have little impact on improving faculty work, teaching, research, service, the student experience,” Harris said.“This is more about scoring political points than anything having to do with what’s actually happening in the classroom.” Read the full article here.
Dominique Baker, assistant professor of education policy, was asked to testify about student debt before the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, chaired by Elizabeth Warren, April 13. Baker’s statements illustrated the burden of student debt upon the economy and its impact on racial justice.
COVID-19 may have made inequities clearer, she said, but the federal financial aid system has for a long time disproportionately impacted students of color, low-income students, and students from other underrepresented communities in higher education.
She also addressed student loan cancellation. “Large-scale debt forgiveness could not only avert a potential wave of student loan defaults and allow for greater participation in the consumer market but also could encourage students who have left college to re-enroll, a current goal sought by many education experts,” she added.
The implicit promise of finding good jobs based on borrowing money and working hard in college doesn’t often deliver, she said.
To watch her testimony, click here and forward to 2:14:00 and 2:28:00 marks in the video.
As school administrations discuss and media cover how the pandemic affects students academically and emotionally, educators are discerning what can help students the most.
Teaching & Learning’s Assistant Clinical Professor Sherril English provided her insights from over thirty years of educational experience as she joined a panel discussion framed by equity and inclusion. Sponsored by Building Solutions, the virtual panel advised parents to help their students find new learning opportunities outside of class and the home.
English counsels students to volunteer, shadow a professional or get jobs. Learn more at KERA and at NBC5.
On March 29, SMU published an article in FWD DFW, a supplement in The Dallas Morning News, about the University’s investments in research and data science. The Simmons School was highlighted along with other research areas of the University.
Dean Stephanie L. Knight said, “The Simmons School of Education and Human Development has always been a nontraditional institution. We take great pride in conducting cutting-edge research and then putting the results of that research into action. “Several years ago, we were approached by Toyota about creating a project to benefit the greater Dallas community. Toyota awarded us a $2 million, three-year planning grant to establish a pre-K through eight school in West Dallas focused on a STEM curriculum. Working with Toyota and Dallas ISD, our objective is to prepare students for jobs and college in STEM-related fields. We expect it to be a center for research and professional development that will not only benefit our students locally but also students throughout the country. Toyota also hopes that the school model can be taken to other communities to promote STEM education.”