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.

Baker Publishes Research on Hate Crimes and Impact on Black Student College Enrollments

Dominique Baker, Ph.D., Education Policy and Leadership

Dominique Baker, assistant professor in the Department of Education Policy and Leadership, examines how reports of hate crimes –both on a state and campus level–affect the college enrollments of Black students.

She and co-author Tolani Britton from the University of California, Berkeley, set out to see the role hate crimes may play in college enrollment decisions. They also look at whether hate crimes reported at individual institutions correlate with the enrollment patterns of Black students.

Their findings show an increase in reports of state-level hate crimes predicts a 20% increase in Black first-time student enrollment at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

The study, published by Stanford University’s Center for Education Policy Analysis, can be read here. HigherEdDive.com also wrote about the research here.

 

 

Gándara’s New Study on Free-College Programs Reveals Large Enrollments of Underserved Students

Assistant Professor of Higher Education Denisa Gándara and Amy Li at Florida International University conducted a study of 33 U.S. public community college promise programs, or free-college programs, and found that they are associated with large enrollment increases of first-time, full-time students—with the biggest boost in enrollment among Black, Hispanic, and female students.

The results come as the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is leading states to tighten higher education budgets, as low-income students are forgoing their post secondary plans at higher rates this fall than their wealthier peers, and as community colleges are experiencing larger enrollment declines than four-year universities. The study was published  in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association.

The research is the first on this topic to examine the effects of multiple promise programs on enrollment at community colleges across the country. For their study, the authors analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, for academic years 2000–01 to 2014–15, to examine the impact of 33 promise programs at 32 community colleges.

Gándara and Li found that, on average, overall enrollments at the community colleges with promise programs increased 23 percent more than at the seven geographically nearest public community colleges without promise programs. Compared to the nearest seven community colleges, promise colleges experienced a 47 percent greater enrollment increase of Black males, a 51 percent greater enrollment of Black females, a 40 percent greater enrollment of Hispanic males, and a 52 percent greater enrollment of Hispanic females. The only groups that did not, on average, experience an enrollment boost associated with promise programs were Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (API) males and females.

“Prior to the pandemic, promise programs were an increasingly popular mechanism for enhancing college entry and postsecondary attainment,” Gándara said. “Our study offers compelling evidence, and reinforces evidence from prior research, of the benefits of such programs in achieving college enrollment goals.”

 

Body Temperature Regulation Study by Davis Shows Tattoos Can Cause Bodies to Overheat

Associate Professor Scott Davis and his team of researchers conducted a study to see if tattoos affect body temperature, and the conclusion is that extensive tattooing may suppress sweating and cause the body to overheat.

His latest research was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, and the article can be read here.

WebMD also covered the study for its popular medical and health website here.

Davis directs Simmons’ Applied Physiology Laboratory in the Department of Applied Physiology and Wellness. He is also currently an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Neurology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

 

Ketterlin Geller To Edit Assessment for Effective Intervention Journal

Simmons Professor Leanne Ketterlin Geller, Department of Education Policy and Leadership

Professor Leanne Ketterlin Geller, Texas Instruments Endowed Chair in Education and Director of Research in Mathematics Education, has been selected as the next journal editor of Assessment for Effective Intervention.   (AEI)

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.

 

 

AERA Honors Stephanie Al Otaiba as a 2020 Fellow

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,

Baker to Work on Grant Studying State Funding for Higher Ed

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.

Dept. of Education Awards Major Funding to Researchers Allor, Al Otaiba, Kamata, and Walkington

SMU Distinguished University Professor Jill Allor, Dept. of Teaching and Learning

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, Patsy and Ray Caldwell Centennial Chair, Dept. of Teaching and Learning

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, Executive Director, Center on Research and Evaluation

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, Dept. of Teaching and Learning

 

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.

 

Pavlakis and Richards Receive Spencer Grant to Expand Research on Homeless Students during Pandemic

 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.

Associate Professor Meredith Richards, Assistant Professor Alexandra Pavlakis, and Simmons post-doctoral fellow Kessa Roberts conduct research on homeless students in Houston ISD.

SMU’s Moody School of Graduate Studies Awards Dissertation Fellowship to Simmons’ Mellado De La Cruz

Veronica Mellado De La Cruz, Ph.D. student, Simmons School of Education and Human Development

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.