Bridging the COVID Learning Gaps: DMN Shows How Quick Testing Methods Used by Simmons Can Help

 

Kindergarten teacher Michelle Davis gives a fist bump to Angelique Luciano, 6, after administering a quick literacy diagnostic test to her at F.P. Caillet Elementary in Dallas on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. These bimonthly, quick diagnostic assessments give her the info she needs to plot out how to get her students on track amid the pandemic. (Lynda M. González/The Dallas Morning News)(Lynda M. González / Staff Photographer)

The Dallas Morning News gives a thorough look at how a teacher can administer quick literacy tests to assess how students are progressing, as they build up their knowledge after staying at home during the pandemic.

Featured is Kindergarten teacher Michelle Davis, who is getting a graduate degree in education from the Simmons School. One of her professors, Diane Gifford, Ph.D., explains why this approach is effective in getting students up to speed. For a full version of the story, read more.

Gándara Becomes a William T. Grant Scholar and Pursues Five-year Research on Free-college Programs

Denisa Gándara, assistant professor of higher education, is a faculty member in the Dept. of Education Policy and Leadership, Simmons School.

Assistant Profesor of Higher Education Denisa Gándara is one of  five early-career researchers selected by the William T. Grant Foundation to receive $350,000 “to execute rigorous five-year research plans that stretch their skills and knowledge into new disciplines, content areas, or methods.”

Gándara will examine how the administrative burdens of free-college programs, such as eligibility criteria and application processes, impact college enrollment and degree completion for racially or ethnically minoritized students. She aims to provide a more complete understanding of how administrative burdens affect students from different racial or ethnic groups, and, ultimately, to inform program design in ways that help reduce gaps in program take-up and degree attainment.

“By supporting their research agendas and professional development, the William T. Grant Scholars Program seeks to contribute to a bright new generation of scholars who will bring rigorous research to youth policies, programs, and practices in the U.S.,” said the Grant Foundation’s Senior Vice President Vivian Tseng.

Dallas Innovates Offers Insights from Five Simmons Professors on Closing Learning Gaps Caused by Pandemic

To combat classroom learning losses stemming from the pandemic, five SMU Simmons professors reflect on their own research to advise Pre-K-12 school leaders on how to build up students’ knowledge.

Drs. Jill Allor, Diane Gifford, Leanne Ketterlin Geller, Candace Walkington, and Annie Wilhelm jump in with ideas published in Dallas Innovate. 

Reading experts Allor and Gifford emphasize basic skills. As Gifford says, “Students should learn the foundational skills necessary to read by the end of second grade. When students have gaps in their learning, they are likely to struggle until those gaps are filled. Even before COVID-19, 65 percent of fourth-graders in 2019 were reading below grade level.”

Allor says phonics is essential for reading comprehension. “Children who have difficulty reading most often have trouble with the ability to understand how letters relate to sounds,” she says.  “Research shows that students who struggle most often need more systematic and explicit phonics instruction. Some very popular reading programs are not consistent with research. If schools use these programs for intervention, many students will continue to struggle.”

Math researcher Leanne Ketterlin Geller believes math requires more dedicated time. “If students miss a concept—addition, for example—it will hinder them from understanding concepts they’ll learn later, like multiplication,”  she says. “Students will need more math instruction than the standard time allotment if they are to catch up.”

Annie Wilhelm adds that it is time to teach math in a new way, “The current model of teaching math as a series of disjointed topics limits students’ development of conceptual understanding. Instead of being taught a new set of procedures to master, students need to wrestle with how new ideas might fit with things they already understand.”

Using technology helps appeal to students’ personal interests, and that is important, says Candace Walkington. “Research shows that the most effective math instruction is relevant to students’ lives and interests and based in real-world problems.”In-person teaching can use technology to re-ignite students’ interest by using augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and game-based learning to simulate real life in math problems”

Michael Harris Weighs In on Legislature’s Proposed Bills to Restrict Faculty Tenure

Professor Michael Harris, Dept. of Education Policy and Leadership, Simmons School.

The Texas Tribune cited Professor Michael Harris’s observations on a bill proposing to revoke faculty tenure should professors file a civil lawsuit against students. Harris, whose primary research centers on the organization and governance of higher education, is interim chair of the Department of Education Policy and Leadership in Simmons and directs the Center for Teaching Excellence at SMU.

At issue is a UT Austin professor who sued some students for libel after they accused him of promoting pedophilia in his research. “This is legislative micromanagement that will have little impact on improving faculty work, teaching, research, service, the student experience,” Harris said.“This is more about scoring political points than anything having to do with what’s actually happening in the classroom.” Read the full article here.

Baker Testifies Before US Senate on Student Debt Burden and Effect on Borrowers, Racial Justice, and Economy

 

Dr. Dominique Baker, Dept. of Education Policy and Leadership, Simmons School

Dominique Baker, assistant professor of education policy, was asked to testify about student debt before the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, chaired by Elizabeth Warren, April 13. Baker’s statements illustrated the burden of student debt upon the economy and its impact on racial justice.

COVID-19 may have made inequities clearer, she said, but the federal financial aid system has for a long time disproportionately impacted students of color, low-income students, and students from other underrepresented communities in higher education.

She also addressed student loan cancellation. “Large-scale debt forgiveness could not only avert a potential wave of student loan defaults and allow for greater participation in the consumer market but also could encourage students who have left college to re-enroll, a current goal sought by many education experts,” she added.

The implicit promise of finding good jobs based on borrowing money and working hard in college doesn’t often deliver, she said.

To watch her testimony, click here and forward to 2:14:00 and 2:28:00 marks in the video.

Click here for printed testimony.

Placing Cutting-Edge Research into Action is a Priority for Simmons and SMU

On March 29, SMU published an article in FWD DFW, a supplement in The Dallas Morning News, about the  University’s investments in research and data science. The Simmons School was highlighted along with other research areas of the University.

Dean Stephanie L. Knight said, “The Simmons School of Education and Human Development has always been a nontraditional institution. We take great pride in conducting cutting-edge research and then putting the results of that research into action. “Several years ago, we were approached by Toyota about creating a project to benefit the greater Dallas community. Toyota awarded us a $2 million, three-year planning grant to establish a pre-K through eight school in West Dallas focused on a STEM curriculum. Working with Toyota and Dallas ISD, our objective is to prepare students for jobs and college in STEM-related fields. We expect it to be a center for research and professional development that will not only benefit our students locally but also students throughout the country. Toyota also hopes that the school model can be taken to other communities to promote STEM education.”

Read more.

Baker Recognized with Early Career Award for Outstanding Research in Ed Policy

Dominique Baker received the 2021 Early Career Award from the Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP). Baker is an assistant professor of education policy in SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.

Each year, AEFP, a non-profit academic and professional organization, gives its Early Career Award to a junior scholar who shows an exemplary early career trajectory and whose research substantially contributes to the field of education finance and policy.

Baker received the award in March at the association’s annual conference. She also received a $1,000 award for the promise and contributions she’s shown to the field.

Baker joined SMU (Southern Methodist University) in 2016. Her research focuses on how education policy affects and shapes the access and success of minoritized students in higher education. She primarily investigates student financial aid, affirmative action and admissions policies, as well as policies that influence the ability to create an inclusive and equitable campus climate.

Her research has been published in a variety of journals, including the American Educational Research Journal, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Journal of Higher Education, Journal of College Student Development, and Teachers College Record. Her work and expertise have also been highlighted by The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Inside Higher Ed, among others.

“I’m delighted to have my work recognized by AEFP,” Baker says. “Education policy has the ability to transform lives, but only if thoughtfully constructed based on evidence that includes the experiences of the folks directly impacted. I look forward to continuing to promote justice by focusing on the ways that policies distribute power and resources.”

 

 

National Academy of Education Inducts Richard Duschl for Contributions in Science Education

Professor Richard Duschl, a leader in SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering known for his continuing contributions to science education through research, has been elected a member of the National Academy of Education (NAEd).

Duschl is the Executive Director of SMU Lyle’s Caruth Institute for Engineering Education and also has an appointment in SMU’s Simmons School of Education & Human Development in the Teaching and Learning Department.

 “Induction into a National Academy representing your field of expertise is the pinnacle of achievement in one’s career,” Marc P. Christensen, dean of the Lyle School of Engineering, said. “When we recruited Prof. Duschl to lead the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education, we knew he was one of the most distinguished researchers in the field education. We are so pleased that he has been formally recognized in this way.”

Duschl has been President of NARST, the International Association for Science Education Research. He also served as director of the Division for Research on Learning at the National Science Foundation and chaired the U.S. Department of Education National Resource Center report, “Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8” (National Academies Press, 2007).

Before joining SMU in 2018, his past appointments included the Waterbury Chair at Penn State University, Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University, Chair of Science Education at King’s College London, Vanderbilt University, the University of Pittsburgh, Hunter College-CUNY and the University of Houston. Duschl taught high school earth science in Charles County, Md. and middle school science and math in East Lansing, Mich.

In 2014 Duschl was awarded the NARST Distinguished Career in Research Award. He served for 10 years as the editor of “Science Education,” an international journal of research and scholarship, and was editor of the Teachers College Press book series “Ways of Knowing in Science.”

Duschl is one of 22 people selected on March 11 to join the National Academy of Education.  

Other new members include:

  • Megan Bang, Spencer Foundation/Northwestern University
  • Daryl Chubin, Independent Consultant and Founding Co-Director, Understanding Interventions
  • Colette Daiute, The City University of New York, Graduate Center
  • Kenneth Frank, Michigan State University
  • Jonathan Guryan, Northwestern University
  • Shaun Harper, University of Southern California
  • Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, Temple University
  • Andrew Ho, Harvard University
  • Nancy Hornberger, University of Pennsylvania
  • Tyrone Howard, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Kent McGuire, Hewlett Foundation
  • Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, University of Delaware
  • Richard Milner IV, Vanderbilt University

The NAEd advances high-quality education research and its use in policy and practice. The Academy consists of U.S. members and international associates who are elected on the basis of outstanding scholarships related to education.

 

 

 

 

 

Al Otaiba Receives Career Leadership Award from Council for Exceptional Children Division for Learning Disabilities

The Council for Exceptional Children Division for Learning Disabilities honored Professor Stephanie Al Otaiba with the Jeannette E. Fleishner Career Leadership Award at its recent annual meeting.

The award recognizes those who have advanced the field of learning disabilities through direct services, policy development, community service, research, or organizational leadership throughout their career.

Al Otaiba is the Patsy and Ray Caldwell Centennial Chair in Teaching and Learning. Recently, the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences awarded her a $1,399,721 grant for Project GROW, a kindergarten intervention. The purpose of the grant is to design a read-aloud intervention to improve kindergartners’ social and emotional vocabulary and their listening comprehension.

 

 

 

CORE and Partners Identify Students’ Pandemic Struggles in Report on Citywide Summer Learning Initiative

Through a public-private partnership, Big Thought, its Dallas City of Learning network and Simmons’ Center on Research and Evaluation (CORE) at Southern Methodist University (SMU), published the results of its annual Dallas City of Learning (DCOL) Summer 2020 Report. Dallas City of Learning is a citywide initiative to ensure all students have access to high-quality summer learning programs.

This year, surveys and interviews included new items specific to the COVID-19 pandemic to understand the effect of the pandemic conditions on programs and students. Surveys and interviews were conducted through Dallas City of Learning programs with students, caregivers, and program staff.

Key findings from the report include:
  • Students surveyed rated their current social-emotional skills a 2.22 out of 4, a decrease of nearly one full point from their pre-COVID ratings. This indicates that the average student does not agree with the positive statements about their feelings since school closed in March 2020.
  • 78 percent of students agree/strongly agree that they learn better when they are at school with their teachers.
  • 73 percent of students agree/strongly agree that they can’t wait to go back to school.
  • 44 percent of students agree/strongly agree that coronavirus makes them feel scared.

During the summer of 2020, Dallas City of Learning partners provided 1,049 virtual and in-person program opportunities resulting in 1,480,961 cumulative hours of programming. Sixty-six percent of program leads reported that they made significant alterations to their programming for summer 2020, and 68 percent said that they are likely to continue with the adaptations they have made well after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.

The findings from the Dallas City of Learning Summer 2020 report can be reviewed in detail at https://dallascityoflearning.org/info/summer-2020-insights/.

For news coverage from The Dallas Morning News, read more.