Baker to Work on Grant Studying State Funding for Higher Ed

Dominique Baker, assistant professor of education policy at Southern Methodist University’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, joins a research team led by the College of Education at Penn State University to study state funding for higher education and how states can design equitable funding policies with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The grant will support a two-year project that will focus on three main policy issues: how states fund colleges, funding disparities among community colleges, and how states fund students through financial aid. In addition to compiling detailed data from a nearly two-decade period related to those policy issues, the research team will also examine how variations in state funding approaches shape college outcomes, particularly among low-income and racially minoritized students.

Baker is a co-principal investigator with Kelly Rosinger, principal investigator for the project and an assistant professor at Penn State University. Other co-principal investigators include Justin Ortagus, assistant professor at the University of Florida, and Robert Kelchen, associate professor at Seton Hall University. The research team was awarded a $549,947 grant for the project, “Equity and Effectiveness of State Higher Education Funding Policies.”

The research team, along with a team of graduate students at Penn State and the University of Florida, comprises the InformEd States project, a clearinghouse for policy analysis, original research, data, and rigorous evidence on the equity and effectiveness of state higher education funding policies.

“States have taken various approaches to funding colleges and student financial aid, and our project will capture these variations over a nearly two-decade period.” Rosinger said. “We will then examine how these approaches relate to student outcomes in an effort to provide policymakers with evidence for how to design effective and equitable policies.”

For her part of the research, Baker will seek a better understanding of how financing, both for colleges and students, varies across the United States. “By deepening our understanding of that variation, we can begin to see what strategies are linked to student success, particularly for students of color or from low-income backgrounds,” she said.

The InformEd States team plans to tackle the current economic challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic head-on with a rapid response segment that will take place in fall 2020. That part of the project will focus on providing state policymakers with evidence-based information through policy briefs and webinars regarding approaches for allocating severely diminished state funds in equitable and effective ways.

NYT Quotes Baker in Report on Tensions Over Tuition Costs

A call from students and parents to reduce tuition costs during the pandemic is gaining momentum, according to the New York Times. In an article exploring how some universities are responding, Assistant Professor Dominique Baker, Department of Education Policy and Leadership, gives her perspective on the rising costs for universities. She explains how new costs, many of which are associated with making campuses safe and advancing teaching, have to be met. Read more here.

Dominique Baker, assistant professor of education policy and leadership, Simmons School

Washington Post and Wall Street Journal Interview Gándara on Higher Ed Costs During Pandemic

As students make decisions about attending colleges and universities during the pandemic, they grapple with costs, and some are asking for tuition reductions especially if classes are held only online. However, higher education institutions are impacted by increased costs to open campuses during a pandemic.

Denisa Gándara, assistant professor of higher education, Department of Education Policy and Leadership

Assistant Professor Denisa Gándara assesses what goes into university costs to operate during the pandemic. She cites salaries, benefits, technological upgrades, and safety measures as major expenses. In addition, some state funded institutions face reductions from their legislatures.

Gándara was interviewed about the topic by The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

Read the Wall Street Journal article here.

Read the Washington Post article here.

 

Dept. of Education Awards Major Funding to Researchers Allor, Al Otaiba, Kamata, and Walkington

SMU Distinguished University Professor Jill Allor, Dept. of Teaching and Learning

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education, is awarding significant funding to four Simmons professors: Jill Allor, Stephanie Al Otaiba, Aki Kamata, and Candace Walkington. The funding total, including two additional sub-grants, is $7,841,791.

Teaching and Learning Professor Jill Allor, Ed.D., will receive $3,299,943 over five years for “Examining the Efficacy of Friends on the Block: An Intensive Early Literacy Intervention for Elementary Students with Intellectual and Developmental Disability (Project Intensity)” The purpose of Project Intensity is to conduct a randomized control trial (RCT) to evaluate the efficacy of a literacy intervention designed to enhance reading and language outcomes for elementary students with intellectual and developmental disability (IDD). Read grant here.

 

Professor Stephanie Al Otaiba, Patsy and Ray Caldwell Centennial Chair, Dept. of Teaching and Learning

Professor Stephanie Al Otaiba, Ph.D., receives $1,399,721 over four years for “Project GROW: Growing Vocabulary Knowledge to Support Comprehension Development through a Kindergarten Dialogic Read-Aloud Intervention”.

The project’s aim is to design an innovative whole-class read aloud intervention that can improve, or “grow” kindergartners’ knowledge of taught academic vocabulary, and their generalized vocabulary knowledge, listening and reading comprehension, and phonological awareness. Read grant here.

 

Professor Aki Kamata, Executive Director, Center on Research and Evaluation

Professor Aki Kamata, Ph.D., executive director of the Center on Research and Evaluation, will receive $899,901 over a three-year period for “Developing Computational Tools for Model-based Oral Reading Fluency Assessments”. He also will be working on two sub-grants with faculty at UT Austin and the University of Oregon.

This project builds upon a previously IES funded project to develop a computer-based oral reading fluency (ORF) assessment system. As part of a Response to Intervention (RTI) framework, ORF measures have been widely used as screening tools to help identify students at risk for poor achievement outcomes, and as progress monitoring tools to help teachers determine effective instruction and monitor students reading growth. Read grant here.

Associate Professor Candace Walkington, Dept. of Teaching and Learning

 

Associate Professor Candace Walkington’s project, “Exploring Collaborative Embodiment for Learning (EXCEL): Understanding Geometry through Multiple Modalities” is receiving  $1,398,245  over four years to build an augmented reality/virtual reality game for learning geometry based on the novella Flatland.

The purpose of this project is to explore how the interaction between collaboration and multisensory experiences affects students’ geometric reasoning through the use of augmented reality (AR) technology. Read grant here.

To develop the game, she is working with Simmons Assistant Dean for Technology and Innovation Tony Cuevas, SMU Guildhall faculty member Elizabeth Stringer, Professor Mitch Nathan from University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a software company, GeoGebra.

 

Inside Higher Ed Article Cites Gándara’s Work on States’ Performance-funding Policies

Assistant Professor Denisa Gándara, Department of Education Policy and Leadership, Simmons School

Assistant Professor Denisa Gándara’s research on funding incentives some states are using to improve student outcomes at public universities is cited in a recent Inside Higher Ed article.

The article explains how some states are making efforts to preserve access for historically underserved students by awarding additional funding (premiums) for enrolling certain groups of students (usually low-income and racial / ethnic minorities).

Colorado’s new funding model, which includes these types of premiums, receives particular attention.

Gándara’s study, co-written with Indiana University’s Amanda Rutherford, finds that the share of both low-income and Hispanic students increases in institutions with performance-funding incentives compared to institutions without such premiums.

Unexpectedly, the findings also reveal negative effects of funding bonuses on Black student enrollments. The findings suggest institutions may be prioritizing enrollment of non-Black students, even when states incorporate these incentives to diversify enrollments. The study was not able to explain this negative relationship between underrepresented student premiums and Black student enrollments.

In addition to the study cited in the article, Gándara’s recent research on performance-based funding models in higher education includes:

Gándara, D., & Rutherford, A. (2020). Completion at the Expense of Access? The Relationship Between Performance-Funding Policies and Access to Public 4-Year Universities. Educational Researcher, 0013189X20927386. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.3102/0013189X20927386

Gándara, D. (2020). How the sausage is made: An examination of a state funding model design process. The Journal of Higher Education91(2), 192-221. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00221546.2019.1618782

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

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.