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.
DALLAS (SMU) May, 4, 2021 – In West Dallas a new Pre K-8 STEM school is set to open this August beginning with students in the 7th and 8th grades. The West Dallas STEM School, a Dallas Independent School District Transformation and Innovation School, is the result of more than three years of collaboration between the District, the Toyota USA Foundation, SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development and the West Dallas community.
“We strongly believe that all children should have equal access to opportunities and a pathway to great careers,” said Sean Suggs, director, Toyota USA Foundation and group vice president, Toyota Social Innovation. “Together with the community, we have worked on everything from building design, teacher development, curriculum and before and after school care. This extends also to addressing broader community needs, including access to transportation.”
To support the school as it opens and its new Master Principal Marion Jackson, the Toyota USA Foundation approved an additional grant of $3 million to SMU, adding to the $2 million grant the foundation awarded in September 2018. This is in addition to Toyota’s teacher and community grants, West Dallas scholarship and mentorship programs, and the recently launched transportation circulator in the area.
“We know that there many related issues – from access to healthy food to before and after school care – that all tie into academic success. This is something we need to collectively address, and we encourage additional partners to come alongside the effort,” added Suggs.
To further support the school, business leader Carter Creech, an SMU alumnus with a passion for education philanthropy, has pledged an additional $3.5 million, following his initial gift of $1.5 million to the project. Creech’s contribution will go toward a new middle school career and college readiness pilot program at the school, as well as efforts to replicate the West Dallas STEM school.
“As we move from planning to implementation, we have deepened our commitment to the school, to the model, and to each other,” said Simmons School Dean Stephanie Knight. “SMU is grateful for this unique partnership, and thanks both the Toyota Foundation USA and Carter Creech for continued investment in our community’s children – the problem solvers of the future.”
The West Dallas STEM School Program at Pinkston
The West Dallas STEM School Program at Pinkston is a neighborhood school that will begin by serving the 7th and 8th grade. PreK – 1st grade is scheduled to begin enrollment in 2023.
The school brings together four integral components to create an innovative PK – 8 school model:
A project-based, industry-informed STEM curriculum
Professional development for educators
“Wraparound” services delivered directly to the students by community nonprofit organizations to help with issues such as literacy, nutrition, transportation and after-school care
Evaluation and measurement to support a model of continuous improvement
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime for the students and community of West Dallas,” principal Jackson said. “This partnership has afforded us the space to realize what’s possible when we focus our collective efforts on changing how we meet the needs of our students and families. We are committed to equipping our students to succeed in an evolving global society.”
SMU’s Simmons School is providing faculty expertise to develop project-based learning, which means that students will learn by working in groups to solve open-ended problems using design, engineering, math, science and technology. The approach prepares students to take on new challenges as they occur – and to understand how to build new knowledge on existing concepts. The Simmons School will provide professional development for teachers, and Simmons researchers will monitor and evaluate the program as it evolves, developing a model to create other STEM-focused schools.
Partnering with the West Dallas Community
Since the onset, the West Dallas community has been engaged in the creation of the school, advising on everything from design to input on services offered at the school.
Parents, such as José Alas, who sits on the school’s advisory council, have been engaged from the beginning. “This school really will help bridge the gap in opportunities when it comes to education,” he says. “Every child has the potential to do great things if we can provide them what they need, and I think the school is going to do just that. We always juggle where to send our children and now we are going to have one of the best schools in our backyard.”
Organizations such as West Dallas One and the West Dallas Community Coalition also have been active in the partnership, participating in the school’s design teams and focus groups with residents. Additionally, six long-established West Dallas nonprofit groups have been working on plans to expand their services within the school to help students and their families gain quick access to resources they need.
Teresa Valerio Parrot, a higher education doctoral student in Simmons, offers a good historical perspective in a Washington Post Op-ed on efforts to reform college athletics for a century. Despite these, nothing has really happened, she says. “Real change and reform will occur only when leaders are willing to rethink this prioritization of profits and turn down the endorsement and media dollars associated with competition.” Read the article here.
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”
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.
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.
As school administrations discuss and media cover how the pandemic affects students academically and emotionally, educators are discerning what can help students the most.
Teaching & Learning’s Assistant Clinical Professor Sherril English provided her insights from over thirty years of educational experience as she joined a panel discussion framed by equity and inclusion. Sponsored by Building Solutions, the virtual panel advised parents to help their students find new learning opportunities outside of class and the home.
English counsels students to volunteer, shadow a professional or get jobs. Learn more at KERA and at NBC5.
SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development continues on an upward trajectory in new rankings determined by U.S. News & World Report. Simmons climbs from 63 to 59 among public and private graduate schools of education in the ranking released March 30 for 2022.
Within the ranks of national private universities, Simmons also made gains, moving from the top 25 schools to the top 15 schools.
“This year, the faculty’s productivity in conducting research impacted our school significantly, leading Simmons to be eleventh in funded research per faculty member ($327,700) among national private colleges of education,” says Leon Simmons Endowed Dean Stephanie L. Knight.
Only two Texas universities have an overall higher ranking than SMU Simmons–UT Texas at Austin and Texas A&M at College Station.
“Simmons educators understand the importance of pulling together and looking for ways to improve outcomes, so the future can be more secure for children and families,” Knight says. “I am proud of our research faculty, supportive staff, and students who continue to raise the bar for scholarship and evidence-based practices.”
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 2022 were assessed for 277 schools.
Tom Hartsell, J.D., clinical professor in the Department of Dispute Resolution and Counseling, received the 2021 Susan C. Adams Award from the Texas Association of Mediators during its annual conference. The award is the organization’s highest recognition and honors exceptional efforts in promoting and furthering the use of mediation in the state.
Hartsell is a lawyer and mediator in private practice with a specialty in family law and mental health practice issues. He has been active in the mediation field since 1986. He is a co-author of “The Portable Lawyer for Mental Health Professionals, an A-Z Guide to Protecting Your Clients, Your Practice and Yourself” and “The Portable Ethicist, An A-Z Guide to Responsible Practice” published by John Wiley & Sons and is a frequent lecturer to mental health professionals and organizations.
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.