As families shelter at home, many may experience a disruption of daily routines and feel challenged by a lack of predictability. During this time, children need to feel safe. Dr. Brandy Schumann, clinical associate professor of counseling at SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, says kids will be seeking additional reassurance from their caregivers to soothe their perception of chaos. Here are some of Schumann’s tips to help.
Talk about what is going on. It is important for kids to have developmentally appropriate information about why life has changed so much. This story/ coloring book from LSU is a great bibliotherapy resource. Reading it aloud to your child will help explain things in a developmentally appropriate level.
Acknowledge feelings. Validating your child’s feelings about changes can enhance connection and ease worries and anxiety. Kids may also be experiencing sadness and disappointment about missing out on extracurricular activities, birthday parties, and playdates. You may experience your child as hypersensitive at this time, seeming to overreact to the small things. Try to respond with patience, understanding the reaction is less about the specific moment and more about a reaction to the state of our environment. Remember, when it seems like your child might need a time out, probably it is a need for a time in with you.
A 30 second burst of quality attention from you, assuring your child that you are available to them when they need you, is usually all that is needed to help them re-regulate.
Kids play–it is their natural mode of communication. As things change in their lives and they become more aware of why, you will find that it will emerge in their play. This will help them gain a sense of control over what feels so out of control. For example, at dinner, my 4-7- and 12-year old children were eating flour tortillas and shaping them into medical masks that they laid across their faces. My 7-year-old laughed hysterically and said, “Hey mom, if they do run out of masks, they can just use tortillas!” This is them “playing” out their world just as we adults talk out ours.
Schedule tech-free time. Tech-free family time can create opportunities for greater connection. Imagine one year from now, what memories to you want your child to have from this time. Use this opportunity together to build your relationship. Many of us are overscheduled. This may be the first time in a while that they and you have “free” time. Get creative. Have fun.
Allow your kids to use technology to connect with their friends. Social distancing does not have to mean that we can no longer connect with each other. Help your kids brainstorm creative ways to connect with their friends.
Take care of yourself. It can feel overwhelming as a parent to have to take on the role of teacher as well as continue full-time work. This time will be stressful. It is important for parents to engage in self-care. For example, stick to child bedtime routines to ensure “adult time.”
Call a counselor. Many are available via telehealth for individual sessions or parent consultation.
Brandy Schumann, Ph.D., specializes in play therapy and serves as a clinical faculty member for SMU Simmon’s Counseling program and the Center for Family Counseling. She co-wrote these tips with SMU counseling alumna, Vivian Murcia,’ 17, M.S.
Simmons post doctoral fellow Kessa Roberts, Ph.D, explains current facts about rural schools in a Dallas Morning News editorial looking at a Department of Education plan to reduce their funding
A bipartisan effort by U.S. senators stopped changes that would impact already impoverished and struggling rural schools. Roberts notes that the country’s majority of rural students reside in Texas. She says that additionally Texas provides less funding to rural schools than most states. Read more.
Roberts is part of the research team created by Simmons professors Alexandra Pavlakis and Meredith Richards to examine education data on Houston homeless students. Read more on the Simmons blog.
A significant rise in rankings places SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development in the top tier of graduate education schools according to the 2021 U.S. News & World Report, released online March 17. Simmons’ new ranking of 63 for public and private graduate schools of education leaps over last year’s 105.
Only two Texas universities rank higher than SMU Simmons–UT Texas at Austin and Texas A&M at College Station. Among national private universities, Simmons is in the top 25. Rankings were assessed for 255 schools.
“Our faculty members understand the importance of collaborating and focusing on research that improves educational outcomes for all students,” said Leon Simmons Endowed Dean Stephanie L. Knight. “I am proud of them and their incredible productivity. They continue to raise the bar for scholarship and consistently translate their research into practice.”
“We are a very young school that was established at SMU in 2005. Despite our youth and our relatively small size, the ranking demonstrates that we are nationally competitive and that our contributions to research are significant,” she added.
For ranking education schools, 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.
A key feature of the West Dallas STEM School is a strategic collaboration with the nonprofit sector to provide embedded or nearby social services that will directly support PreK-8 students, families, school staff, and the broader community.
A portion of the $2 million planning grant made to SMU by Toyota has been sub-granted to convene three cohorts of nonprofits to increase their learning and readiness capacity for possible participation in the school. A pilot cohort of six nonprofits – AVANCE North Texas, Brother Bill’s Helping Hand, Dallas Afterschool, Mercy Street, The Concilio, and Wesley-Rankin Community Center – met for five months during the 2019 spring semester to engage in planning and capacity building work.
The topics they tackled included learning the history of West Dallas for current context, understanding community cultural wealth, identifying opportunities for continuous improvement, building a collaborative culture, and exploring to school-community partnerships.
Cohort II begins in March 2020 and will include nine sessions with up to 12 participating nonprofit organizations. “The first cohort served as a pilot, providing learning opportunities for nonprofit participants and those of us planning the sessions,” said Erin O. Crosby, a co-lead for the Community Development Design Team representing SMU, DISD, and Toyota. “Having three years to plan a school is a gift, especially when co-designing features like wraparound services to benefit everyone in the school as well as the broader community. We want the nonprofits to feel ready and be ready to succeed in this new and innovative space on day one.”
In the spring of 2019, the West Dallas STEM School partnership began collaborating with Gabe Allen Elementary School’s principal Sheila Ortiz Espinell to support teacher learning.
Members of the professional learning design team, led by SMU Simmons professor Annie Wilhelm, Ph.D., and Dallas ISD’s Shannon Terry, Ph.D., met with Ms. Ortiz and her leadership team to learn more about their school and their vision for where the school was headed.
Similar meetings were held with the faculty to determine what should be included in professional learning, and the result was to focus on writing and project-based learning for science classes.
Assistant Professor Amy Gillespie Rouse at SMU Simmons started monthly professional development sessions for third to fifth-grade teachers on writing-to-learn. Also, SMU Research Assistant Professor Jeanna Wieselmann laid the foundation for project-based learning in science. The project-based unit is developed with fifth-grade science teachers who will be the first to implement it in mid-February. The intent is for the other grade levels also to have the opportunity to experience project-based learning this year.
The partnership will continue into the 2021-22 school year, and respond to the emerging needs of the campus community.
The Conversation, a journalistic publication focusing on academia, interviews Denisa Gándara, assistant professor of higher education in Simmons, about performance-based funding for state colleges and universities.
She points out there is a resurgence in tying state funding to graduation rates because of a renewed interest in college completion. The Great Recession also pushed state legislators to ask higher education institutions to do more with less. The question is, does performance-based funding work?
“I call performance-based funding policies the “zombies of higher education,” she says. “I say this because they seem to be the higher education policies that no amount of evidence can kill.” Read more on why she believes the approach does not work.
Gándara first published a paper on the topic in the Journal of Higher Education, May 2019.
In a clever imagining of how could humans could be redesigned to run faster, The New York Times’ Good Question talks to Dr. Peter Weyand about what might work — longer or extra legs, wider hips? Read more.
Simmons Associate Professor Candace Walkington and North Central Texas College’s Elizabeth Howell collaborated on research that examines the support systems in community colleges for students who are under-prepared in math when they enrolled. Their article is published in the Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice.
The study looks at two 5-year longitudinal data sets of community college students to explore factors associated with successful outcomes in developmental mathematics. Additional linear regression models examine the time required to complete developmental coursework. Tutoring has a strong association with positive student outcomes, as do full-time enrollment and developmental mathematics coursework grades. Implications for developmental mathematics programs in community college settings are discussed.
Park Cities People and Preston Hollow People published a special section on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) education, including an article on the design and planning for the new West Dallas STEM school. The work for the PreK-8 school is supported by a $2 million grant provided by Toyota USA Foundation to SMU Simmons. Read more about the partnership between Simmons, Dallas ISD, Toyota, and members of the West Dallas communities.
Dominique J. Baker, assistant professor of education policy, has been awarded an American Educational Research Association (AERA) research grant and a Spencer Foundation small research grant.
The AERA research grant will provide $25,000 to examine the effect of a Texas state policy designed to increase college completion and limit college student debt by incentivizing students to take fewer classes unrelated to their degree (excess semester credit hour policies).
In Texas, public institutions may charge in-state students up to the full out-of-state price once students gain credits above a certain level.
This policy is designed to discourage students from taking classes not needed for graduation while encouraging colleges to create more streamlined pathways to a degree. Prior research suggests that these types of policies may encourage students to simply borrow more instead of focusing on graduating more quickly. These types of policies may also affect transfer students if their transfer credits do not count toward their degree program, but do count toward the overall number of cumulative credits they are allowed to pursue.
The Spencer small research grant will provide $50,000 for Baker to investigate whether Texas community college districts show evidence of racial gerrymandering. Some scholars have found evidence of racial gerrymandering in K-12 attendance school zones across the United States. However, little research has focused on how district boundaries are created for community colleges. This project will use several different geospatial techniques to produce evidence on whether racial gerrymandering exists, and whether boundaries alleviate or worsen segregation in community colleges.
While both research projects focus on Texas as case studies, these policies exist in several other states. Baker aims to provide scholars, policymakers, and the public with evidence on the extent to which inequities are embedded within state higher education policies on course-taking behaviors, and in the creation of community college districts.