Simmons School Ranked in Top 25 of Private Schools by U.S. News and World Report

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.

 

 

Gándara Discusses Pluses and Minuses of Performance-based Funding for State Colleges and Universities

Assistant Professor of Higher Education Denisa Gándara, SMU Simmons

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.

Walkington and Howell Look at Support Systems in Community Colleges for Students Under-Prepared in Math

Simmons Teaching and Learning’s Candace Walkington teaches a class in Harold Clark Simmons Hall on the SMU Campus.

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.

Dominique Baker Receives AERA and Spencer Foundation Grants

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.

She will begin work on both studies in 2020.

Pavlakis and Richards Analyze Education Outcomes of Homeless Students in Houston

Alexandra Pavlakis, assistant professor, Education Policy and Leadership Department

Student homelessness is on the rise nationally, and roughly 10 percent of all U.S. homeless students live in Texas. To see how this growing student population is faring educationally, professors Alexandra Pavlakis, Meredith Richards, and postdoctoral fellow Kessa Roberts are engaged in long-term research with the Houston Independent School District, the seventh-largest district in the country. The number of homeless students there rose to approximately 30,000 after Hurricane Harvey, and many have not recovered.

Meredith Richards, assistant professor, Education Policy and Leadership Department

Working with the school district and Houston Education Research Consortium (HERC) at Rice University, Pavlakis, Richards, and Roberts want to know how homeless students are doing relative to non-homeless students. They are examining attendance, discipline, achievement, and attainment. Part of what they are seeing is that outcomes depend on factors such as where students sleep at night, and if they are on their own or accompanied by adults.

They just concluded their first phase of research, which involves quantitative analysis, and their report comes out in the spring.

As a commitment to the project, their research team created and distributed a bilingual directory of community resources to homeless families in the school district. The Moody Foundation and SMU’s University Research Council support the research.

 

CORE Finds Positive Results for Summer Programs Run by the Dallas City of Learning Collaborative

Annie Wright, director of evaluation for CORE

The Dallas City of Learning, an organizational effort to fight student loss of learning during summer, received a positive assessment from the Center on Research and Evaluation at SMU Simmons.

Annie Wright, CORE’s director of evaluation, reported that the more students participated in summer learning programs, the more pronounced were the gains.

“What we’re seeing is that the effect of summer learning extends well into the school year,” Wright said.

The Dallas City of Learning is a partnership between the City of Dallas, Dallas ISD, and Big Thought. Read more.

Gándara Selected as Finalist for William T. Grant Scholars Program

Denisa Gándara, assistant professor of higher education in the Department of Education Policy and Leadership, is one of ten finalists for the William T. Grant Scholars Program. Early career researchers submit proposals for five-year research and mentoring plans designed to expand their skills and knowledge. Applicants are nominated by their institutions.

The ten finalists will be interviewed in February 2019 and four to six Scholars will be announced in March. Those selected will each receive $350,000 over five years and participate in annual meetings. The Scholars Program began in 1982 and has a rich history of supporting the development of early-career researchers in the social, behavioral, and health sciences.

Professors Rouse Examine How Writing Provides Path for Learning Engineering Concepts

Professors Amy Gillespie Rouse and Rob Rouse published “Third Graders’ Use of Writing to Facilitate Learning of Engineering Concepts,” in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching. Their study extended work on elementary engineering instruction by implementing an integrated engineering and writing unit with 58 third-grade students.

“We argue that literacy, particularly writing, provides an effective and feasible method for incorporating engineering instruction into the elementary curriculum,” they state.

Amy Gillispie Rouse, Assistant Professor of Special Education, Dept. of Teaching and Learning.
Rob Rouse, Clinical Associate Professor, Dept. of Teaching and Learning

Luft Baker Publishes Research on Dallas Morning News Workshops for Parents on Early Childhood and Social Media Dissemination

Associate Professor Doris Luft Baker collaborated with The Dallas Morning News on workshops to inform a group of Spanish-speaking parents about early childhood development and learn to disseminate the information on social media.

Luft Baker studied the groups over the duration of the workshops and concludes the mothers who attended the workshops significantly increased their early childhood knowledge, and children whose mothers attended the workshops significantly increased their Spanish expressive vocabulary.

However, Luft Baker did not find significant effects of the workshops on parental technology knowledge and literacy knowledge. Her article is featured in the Bilingual Research Journal.

 

 

 

Center on Research and Evaluation Receives Award for Advancing Early Childhood Outcomes

Child Care Associates (CCA), a significant Fort Worth nonprofit supporting the development of children from zero to five years of age, honored Simmons’ Center on Research and Evaluation (CORE) at its second annual luncheon, October 16.

CORE received the North Texas Early Childhood Leadership Award for improving children’s educational outcomes by helping establish research-based quality standards in classrooms, and by measuring outcomes accurately. CORE also was cited for engaging fully with its partners.

“Early education is a bright spot for education for those investing in education and innovation,” says CCA’s CEO Kara Waddell. “CCA created the award in 2018 to spotlight individuals and organizations who go above and beyond in advancing outcomes for young children.”

The early childhood organization also recognized philanthropist Happy Baggett, who has raised the visibility of early education as a key economic development factor in place-based planning.