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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In an article published by Inside Higher Ed, Assistant Professor Dominique Baker offers her perspective on proposed openings of college campuses during COVID-19. She cites the unknowns, given the uncertainty of how long the virus remains, and the consequences of quarantines. Read the article here.
Baker specializes in education policy and her research focuses on the effects of higher education access policies on students, particularly those who are underrepresented within higher education.
A new report by Simmons professors Alexandra Pavlakis and Meredith Richards details how homeless students in Houston ISD are faring educationally. Released by the Houston Education Research Consortium at Rice University, the report makes clear that homeless students are at an elevated risk of a range of adverse educational outcomes, and the findings also highlight the complexity of the relationship between homelessness and student outcomes. Pavlakis and Richards looked at students who were homeless from 2012-13 to 2016-17, the years immediately preceding Hurricane Harvey.
Some of the key findings include:
Students experiencing homelessness were more likely to drop out of school than their matched, non-homeless peers.
Students who were homeless four and five years tended to have higher attendance than students who were homeless for shorter periods of time.
Unaccompanied youth had substantially lower attendance than accompanied homeless students, and less likely to pass the STAAR exams than accompanied homeless students.
Where students sleep matters. Attendance gaps were large for unsheltered students and students in motels.
Interestingly, homeless students tended to perform better on STAAR exams than their matched peers. This could hint at the potential value of educational supports and resources inherent in McKinney-Vento Act or provided at shelters or drop-in centers for homelessness. However, homeless students were also somewhat less likely to take STAAR tests—particularly in math.
Pavlakis and Richards also make recommendations on what the school district might consider to improve student outcomes. Simmons post doctoral fellow Kessa Roberts, Ph.D. assisted with the research. The Moody Foundation and SMU’s University Research Council supported the research. This is a long-term project for the researchers.
Assistant Professor Dominique Baker released a study in 2019 on student loan debt in Texas, looking at how undergraduate students are managing their debts after leaving college. She examined student characteristics for the debt-to-income ratio of those who attended public four-year institutions.
“What I generally found is these facets of students’ characteristics, including their race and their gender, can predict whether or not these students have high debt-to-income ratios,” says Baker. Her study also shows that black and Hispanic students borrow more than white peers, but Asian-American students borrow less.
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.