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 penalizing students for taking too many 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. 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 course work, and community college policies.
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.
More students from higher-income families are taking out loans to go to college, according to a Marketplace report on public radio. Assistant Professor Dominique Baker explains how higher-income families are more apt to chose more expensive schools and also use Parent PLUS, which allows borrowing up to the full cost of attendance.
Baker says, “Income is not wealth. That’s critical to keep in mind because there are some families that have the same amounts of income, but they have different economic resources that they can tap into to help support students through college.” Read more.
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.
The strength of a dedicated partnership between SMU Simmons, Dallas ISD, and Toyota to create a new STEM school in West Dallas will create new opportunities for students and their families, says Dean Stephanie L. Knight in a commentary published in The Dallas Morning News, November 26, 2019. Her op-ed was written in response to a city-wide challenge issued by the chairman of the Dallas Citizens Council to bridge the economic divide found in under-resourced areas.
Toyota awarded a $2 million planning grant to the Simmons School for the development of a new STEM pre-K to eighth-grade school, and Dallas ISD anticipates opening the school in 2021. Read more.
As a future workforce takes shape, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) plays a foundational role in education. To examine how business and education are collaborating on STEM, Dallas Innovates, a publishing venture between the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce and D Magazine Partners, invited a panel of experts to talk about the advancement.
Dean Stephanie Knight joined eight other leaders in the conversation, “STEM, STEAM, STREAM: In Dallas the Ingridients Are Here.” Read the three-part series:
Ann Batenberg, clinical associate professor of gifted education in Simmons, provides a framework for how gifted education is working in the U.S.
In a Parents magazine article, she discusses how a lack of federal laws pertaining to gifted education has lead to a lack of identifying and serving students. She also says using local norms may be better determinants than national testing. “High test scores have proven to be better at predicting the income level of a student, not their academic achievement,” she adds. Read more.
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.