Simmons Continues on the Upswing in U.S.News & World Report Rankings for Best Graduate Schools in Education

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.


Texas Tribune Features Comments from Dean Knight on Recent Exodus of Superintendents

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.




American Institute for Research Center for Education Equity Awards Grant to Pavlakis, Richards and Roberts

Dr. Meredith Richards, Dr. Alex Pavlakis, and Dr. Kessa Roberts (L to R)

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 Comments on Teacher Shortages and School Closures for CBS 11

Watt Lesley Black, Jr,. Clinical Professor in Education Policy and Law.

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.

Dean Knight Offers Perspective in NBC5’s Report on Current Exodus of Superintendents

Stephanie L. Knight, dean of the Simmons School of Education and Human Development at SMU.

On a day when Dallas and Fort Worth superintendents announced their retirements, NBC5 reported on the pressures education leaders may be facing and causing the exits. Dean Stephanie L. Knight commented on the current conditions that add to an already demanding job.

See the story below.


North Texas Superintendents Face Challenges, Several Stepping Aside








Baker Joins the Ranks of Top 200 Education Scholars Influencing Public Discourse


Dominique Baker, assistant professor of education policy in Simmons, is one of 200 top education scholars who move ideas from academic journals into the public sphere. The designation is part of the 2022 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings, posted annually by Frederich M. Hess, an Education Week blogger, and director of the American Enterprise Institute’s education policy studies.

According to Hess, the scholars must excel in five areas:  disciplinary scholarship, policy analysis and popular writing, convening and shepherding collaborations, providing incisive media commentary, and speaking in the public square.

“This year, two junior faculty made the top 200: Harvard’s Anthony A. Jack, at 159, and Southern Methodist’s Dominique Baker, at 187. Given that the exercise, by design, favors scholars who’ve built bodies of work and had a sustained impact, these two are deserving of particular notice,” he said.

The Simmons School congratulates Baker for her high accomplishment.

SMU Simmons, UT Austin, and University of Missouri Collaborate to Support Ph.D. Candidates Focusing on Mathematics in Learning Disabilities

LIME (Leaders Investigating Mathematics Evidence) is a project funded by the Office of Special Education Programs to create the next generation of researchers and leaders with Ph.D.s in special education with a focus on mathematics. It will provide tuition and stipend support, travel to conferences, and research support for twelve scholars for four years of doctoral studies. The program will be hosted at three universities: University of Texas, Austin; Southern Methodist University; and the University of Missouri.

Sarah Powell, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Special Education at UT Austin, co-authored the grant along with Leanne Ketterlin-Geller, Ph.D., Simmons professor in the Department of Education Policy & Leadership at SMU, and Erica Lembke, Ph.D., professor in the College of Education at the University of Missouri. Additional team members from SMU Simmons include professors Amy Rouse and Annie Wilhelm, Department of Teaching and Learning.

Read more.



Baker Receives Excellence in Public Policy Higher Education Award from ASHE

The Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) has honored Simmons Assistant Professor Dominique J. Baker with the Excellence in Public Policy Higher Education Award. The award is given by its Council on Public Policy in Higher Education.

The citation reads “In her already substantial body of published work, Dr. Dominique J. Baker has consistently focused on how higher education policies affect minoritized student populations. Dr. Baker has regularly shared her research and expertise with the wider policy community via numerous op-eds and policy briefs. As evidence of the high esteem in which her work is held, Dr. Baker was recently asked to give testimony before the U.S. Senate.”

Baker also was recognized by the Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP) with its Early Career Award, which she received at the association’s annual conference in March.

Her research focuses on the way that education policy affects and shapes the access and success of underrepresented students in higher education. She primarily investigates student financial aid, affirmative action, and policies that influence the ability to create an inclusive and equitable campus climate. She is a faculty member in the Department of Education Policy and Leadership.

Associated Press Includes SMU Simmons in List of Teacher Prep Programs Managing Changes Due to COVID-19

In a survey of teacher preparation programs around the country, the Associated Press asked how COVID-19 is impacting the way new teachers are being trained. SMU Simmons responded by saying professors are training students to use Google Classroom and also to evaluate education technology. Read the article here.


KRLD Radio Interviews Les Black on Impact of COVID in Holding Back Students

On KRLD Radio, Clinical Professor Les Black, Department of Education Policy and Leadership, talked about COVID’s impact on parents and taking steps to hold children back. Professor Black’s specialty is education policy and law.

He said holding back students would not be advisable, but ultimately it would be up to the parents. In most cases, parents and school administrators work together to determine what would be best for the student. The new Texas law, HB4545, which allows for accelerated instruction, would be important to consider. To hear his interview, click here.