She will be handling new submissions starting October 1, 2020.
The journal focuses on practical applications of assessment, with an emphasis on assessment considerations for special populations. The publishers are the Hammill Institute on Disabilities and SAGE in association with the Council for Educational Diagnostic Services.
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) recently recognized Professor Stephanie Al Otaiba with top honors for her substantial research accomplishments in the field. She was inducted as an AERA Fellow, September 1, 2020.
The fellows program was established to “convey the Association’s commitment to excellence in research, and to enable the next generation of emerging scholars to appreciate the value of sustained achievements in research and the breadth of scholarship worthy of recognition.”
Al Otaiba is the Patsy and Ray Caldwell Centennial Chair in Teaching and Learning. Her research interests include school-based literacy interventions, response to intervention, learning disabilities, diverse learners, and teacher training. She has published over 120 journal articles and book chapters related to these interests. She has also developed reading curricular materials. Her line of research has been supported by several federally funded grants from the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences, the Office of Special Education Programs, and from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
to convey the Association’s commitment to excellence in research,
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.
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, 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, 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’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.
To help policymakers, educators, parents and others respond to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, professors Alexandra Pavlakis, Meredith Richards, and post doctoral fellow, Kessa Roberts, contributed a policy brief on homeless students released by EdResearch for Recovery, a project initiated by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University and Results for America. The collaboration taps top researchers from across the country to develop evidence briefs to inform recovery strategies.
Simmons researchers are examining the effects of student displacement in the Houston Independent School District caused by Hurricane Harvey, and now COVID-19. As they note, student homelessness was increasing before the pandemic hit. In their brief, they suggest strategies for schools, such as prioritizing identification, establishing an environment that builds trust, and policy to support students’ rights.
Kathryn Hill and Zitsi Mirakhur with Research Alliance for New York City Schools also contributed to the brief.
Provost Elizabeth Loboa has named Teaching and Learning Professor Jill Allor a Distinguished University Professor for her excellence in teaching, researching, and community service. Allor is one of two SMU faculty members recognized this year for the highest levels of academic achievement.
The honor is based on recommendations from deans and endorsed by the Office of the Provost. The University Distinguished Professorships were created in 1982 by SMU’s Board of Trustees to celebrate outstanding faculty members, who receive cash awards of $10,000 per year and are appointed for a five-year rolling term.
Since arriving at SMU in 2004, Professor Allor has developed and maintained a highly productive research agenda across a broad range of topics within her field: structured literacy tutoring for elementary readers, alternative assessment models for students with intellectual disabilities and below average IQs, and approaches for promoting literacy among pre-school level readers. She is a former special education teacher whose research is school-based and focuses on reading acquisition for students with and without disabilities, including students with learning disabilities and intellectual disabilities.
She has published 31 peer-reviewed journal articles and seven book chapters. During her time at SMU she has received $7 million dollars in external research funding and has presented at 65 conferences.
Professor Allor has taught a broad range of courses, including literacy, assessment, quantitative methods, curriculum/instruction, and special education. She has also supervised Simmons’ doctoral students through dissertation.
Throughout her SMU career, Allor has maintained a strong commitment to service – to Simmons, SMU and the national community. In Simmons, for example, she served as chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning for nine years.
Allor received her Ed.D. in special education with an emphasis on reading and reading disabilities from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. Prior to arriving at SMU in 2004, she held faculty appointments at Florida State University and Louisiana State University.
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.
Veronica Mellado De La Cruz, a Ph.D. student in Simmons, has been awarded a 2020-21 Moody Dissertation Fellowship from the Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies. Her award of $30,000 will help her research her dissertation topic that focuses on early reading assessments in English and Spanish for emerging bilingual students. She is one of four Moody Dissertation Fellows this year.
Her proposed work is an extension of a larger, and now complete, Institute of Education Science-funded project exploring brief, published tests for effectively measuring kindergartners’ early literacy growth and efficiently predicting reading difficulties (PI Nathan Clemens; Co-PI Stephanie Al Otaiba).
“When I joined the project and as my training in the Ph.D. program progressed, I began to formulate questions about whether scores on first language early literacy skills might be helpful to educators who use these data for instructional decisions,” she says.
Professor Stephanie Al Otaiba, dissertation advisor, says Mellado De La Cruz has had extensive training experiences at SMU through a doctoral training grant, the National Center for Leadership on Intensive Intervention, and workshops on learning different analytic methods. “She has already authored and co-authored several publications in peer-reviewed journals, and has made presentations at national conferences,” she says. “Veronica is likely to go on to have a position in educational research for the vulnerable population of students with intensive intervention needs.”
Mellado De La Cruz received her B.A. in Psychology from SMU in 2007, and says that years later when she developed an interest in education research, she reached out to Simmons faculty. Her contact with them lead her to apply for the doctoral program.”I am a Pony through and through!,” she adds.
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.