A new report by Simmons professors Alexandra Pavlakis and Meredith Richards details how homeless students in Houston ISD are faring educationally. Released by the Houston Education Research Consortium at Rice University, the report makes clear that homeless students are at an elevated risk of a range of adverse educational outcomes, and the findings also highlight the complexity of the relationship between homelessness and student outcomes. Pavlakis and Richards looked at students who were homeless from 2012-13 to 2016-17, the years immediately preceding Hurricane Harvey.
Some of the key findings include:
Students experiencing homelessness were more likely to drop out of school than their matched, non-homeless peers.
Students who were homeless four and five years tended to have higher attendance than students who were homeless for shorter periods of time.
Unaccompanied youth had substantially lower attendance than accompanied homeless students, and less likely to pass the STAAR exams than accompanied homeless students.
Where students sleep matters. Attendance gaps were large for unsheltered students and students in motels.
Interestingly, homeless students tended to perform better on STAAR exams than their matched peers. This could hint at the potential value of educational supports and resources inherent in McKinney-Vento Act or provided at shelters or drop-in centers for homelessness. However, homeless students were also somewhat less likely to take STAAR tests—particularly in math.
Pavlakis and Richards also make recommendations on what the school district might consider to improve student outcomes. Simmons post doctoral fellow Kessa Roberts, Ph.D. assisted with the research. The Moody Foundation and SMU’s University Research Council supported the research. This is a long-term project for the researchers.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Simmons Professor Leanne Ketterlin Geller joins SMU Lyle’s Assistant Professor Corey Clark, also deputy director of research at Guildhall, and Associate Professor Eric Larson to research teaching computer science and computational thinking through the popular video game, Minecraft.
With a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, they will examine the fields of game design, human-computer interaction, machine learning, curriculum design, and education assessment by integrating STEM+C (computing) based curriculum directly into Minecraft.
Ketterlin Geller is engaged in research and scholarship focused on supporting all students in mathematics education through application of instructional leadership principles and practices.
Associate Professor Annie Wilhelm and fellow researchers from North Carolina State received a $2.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct a four-year study of elementary and middle school mathematics instructional practice to respond to the growing needs of students who historically have been underserved in mathematics classes.
The project, Validation of the Equity and Access Rubrics for Mathematics Instruction (VEAR-MI), seeks to move the conversation beyond ambitious instruction and take initial steps towards specifying and measuring practices to support students in gaining access and more equitably participating in mathematics classes.
The goal is to provide foundational knowledge for improving mathematics teaching and learning, and address the critical need for research that directly links instructional practices to student achievement and participation.