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New initiative to create reading comprehension intervention tailored to students with autism
September 12, 2016

MCPER is partnering with the University of California, Riverside, on a project to create a reading comprehension intervention specifically designed for students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

The project, Reading Enhancements for Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders (Project READ), received a $1.5 million federal grant, which will enable investigators to develop and test the intervention at elementary and middle schools in Texas and Southern California over a 3-year period.

The project’s investigators include Sharon Vaughn and Colleen Reutebuch of MCPER and Michael Solis, an assistant professor of special education at UC Riverside, who is also formerly of MCPER.

“The reading intervention takes into account many of the unique challenges of providing reading instruction to students with ASD by using interest-based text,” Solis told UCR Today. “Once students are more motivated to read about their interest area they are much more likely to be engaged and open to learning new skills that will help improve their ability to understand what they read.”

ASD is becoming increasingly prevalent in the United States, where it affects 1 in 68 children, according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014.

Educators and parents have long expressed concern over the lack of proper reading instruction for children with ASD. Solis said he believes the problem stems from inadequate research on the topic, which he found was explored in only 12 studies over the last 3 decades.

For more information, visit Project READ's project page

Tags: Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute  Reading Enhancements for Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders 

Pilot Point Middle School sees significant increase in STAAR scores
September 9, 2016

After working with the Texas Literacy Initiative to set higher expectations and put a greater emphasis on making data-driven decisions, Pilot Point Middle School saw a significant increase in its STAAR scores from 2015 to 2016.

In grade 8, the pass rate for the reading portion of the STARR jumped from 77% in 2015 to 89% in 2016. For students from lower socioeconomic status, the pass rate increased from 70% to 83%. Most notably, however, for English as a second language (ESL) students, the pass rate increased from 30% to 82% (see the table below).

The principal at Pilot Point Middle School, Dustin Toth, credited this increase in test scores to the hard work of his students, teachers, and staff.

In addition, he said, his teachers received invaluable assistance from Regina Wheat, an instructional coach who receives funding from the Texas Literacy Initiative, and Michelle Lambert-Yuhasz, a Texas Literacy Initiative state literacy liaison.

“Each time [Lambert-Yuhasz visited] our campus, I would try to get as much feedback as I could on our programs and identify what changes we needed to make to keep our campus moving forward,” Toth said.

Some of the changes contributing to Pilot Point’s successful test scores included a new campuswide vocabulary initiative, a move away from a pullout ESL program to one allowing students to be in a regular reading class each day, and the introduction of a special STAAR reading class for students in need of more intensive reading support.

“A major key to our success was the collaboration between our students and teachers,” Toth said, explaining how teachers not only took time to review assessments with their students, but also had their students set goals for subsequent tests and develop plans of action to achieve those goals while monitoring progress along the way.

A general education teacher, a special education teacher, an ESL teacher, a counselor, the principal, and an instructional coach reviewed the data and then developed appropriate intervention plans. Finally, identified strengths and weaknesses were discussed at grade-level meetings to look at the ways individual teachers could boost specific objectives and foundational skills in their class.

“Needless to say, we are excited about the direction our campus is headed,” Toth said. “It has been a total team effort and we can’t wait to keep moving forward next year.”

STAAR Grade 8 Reading Scores
  Satisfactory Advanced
  2016 2015 2016 2015
All Students 89 77 21 17
Economically Disadvantaged 83 70 17 11
Limited English Proficient 70 27 0 0
English as a Second Language 82 30 0 0

Tags: Vaughn Gross Center  Texas Literacy Initiative 

MCPER secures $20 million grant to support postsecondary outcomes for deaf individuals
August 31, 2016

MCPER and a team of national partners have secured a $20 million, 5-year federal award to establish a national center focused on postsecondary outcomes for deaf individuals.

The new center, which will be part of MCPER's Deaf and Hard of Hearing Institute, will launch on January 1, 2017. Institute Director Stephanie Cawthon and Co-Investigator Carrie Lou Garberoglio will lead the initiative.

The overall goals of the center are to increase the numbers of deaf individuals who, without requiring remedial coursework, are admitted to, persist in, and complete postsecondary education or training; improve collaborations between community organizations, institutions, and state-level agencies; increase institutional capacity to implement evidence-based practices and strategies; increase knowledge on how to use technology to promote access and provide accommodations; and disseminate lessons learned.

"Ultimately, we seek to change the culture surrounding postsecondary outcomes for deaf individuals and create conditions for success in a way that recognizes and honors their experiences, perspectives, and abilities," Garberoglio said.

Services the center will provide include professional development opportunities, intensive training, live chat support, dissemination of promising models, community engagement activities, mobilization of local resources, national task forces, state collaboratives, national data reports, and research-to-practice activities.

The grant is through the Office of Special Education Programs in the U.S. Department of Education.

Tags: Deaf and Hard of Hearing Institute 

In new article, Write for Texas director advocates for policy that supports research-based practices
August 18, 2016

A recent article by Write for Texas Director Ellie Hanlon in Texas Lone Star, a publication of the Texas Association of School Boards, features ways that school board members can influence classroom teaching practices to improve student writing.

Emphasizing that change requires commitment at all levels, “The Write Stuff: How to Create a Cadre of Strong Readers and Writers in Texas” engages school board members to consider focusing policy discussions and agendas on the importance of research-based instructional practices. The article supports board members to become knowledgeable about expectations for student writing skills at various grade levels and encourages them to look for evidence of strategies that promote reading and writing in all content areas.

The article also points readers to MCPER's 10 Key Writing Practices for All Schools, which includes practical, research-based recommendations and grade-level descriptions of student skills. The resource is part of the 10 Key series, which distills the latest research findings into concise, one-page top 10 lists of the most important things that should be in place in every school.

The backbone of Write for Texas continues to be its network of almost 100 dedicated writing coaches in more than 200 schools across the state. These site-based staff members design and deliver professional development to support classroom teachers, instructional and content specialists, and campus and district administrators to provide opportunities for all students to read, write, and discuss a wide variety of genres throughout the school year. In addition to planning a reprise of the regional summer institutes for 2017, Write for Texas will continue to develop resources to support educators at all levels to implement the guiding principles of effective writing instruction. 

Write for Texas 

Nancy Lewis to present on cost analysis in intervention research
August 11, 2016

UPDATE: The presentation is now available online. Read the original announcement below.

MCPER's Nancy Lewis will deliver a presentation titled "Understanding Cost Analysis in Intervention Research" from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. on August 24 in Room 324 of UT Austin's Sanchez Building. 

The following description is from a flyer for the event: "Funders are increasingly interested in researchers determining the costs associated with their educational interventions. This brief introduction to cost analysis will describe the differences between cost analysis, cost-effectiveness analysis, and cost-benefit analysis to help you determine which type of cost study is most appropriate for a given intervention. The steps involved in conducting a cost study, including determining costs and combining them with effects or benefits, also will be briefly discussed, along with ways that the findings of a cost study can be used for decision-making."

Emile Elementary book study program changes mindsets, sees results
August 8, 2016

The Texas Literacy Initiative (TLI) and Emile Elementary School in Bastrop have developed a book study program for teachers that goes beyond reading and responding—instead creating a culture-changing, high-impact professional learning community that has seen real results.

  Emile Elementary Principal Jennifer Hranitzky, TLI State Literacy Liaison Jennifer Greene Gast, and TLI District Literacy Liaison Angeline Vrbsky developed the program for Mindsets in the Classroom: Building a Culture of Success and Student Achievement in Schools by Mary Cay Ricci during a summer brainstorming session. As a part of its campus improvement plan, Emile Elementary chose the book for its 2015–2016 book study.

  In the book, Ricci focuses on how to implement a “growth” mindset (versus a “fixed” mindset) in the classroom. This idea comes from the research of Carol Dweck. According to Dweck’s Mindset website, “In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits ... [and] that talent alone creates success—without effort. In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”

  Emile teachers met monthly on Mondays after school. Gast or Vrbsky demonstrated one instructional strategy at each meeting, and teachers participated in activities in an interactive notebook for each chapter. At the end of the program, teachers had a notebook that highlighted the main points of each chapter and the staff appointed “mindset mentors” who will use their notebooks to guide new teachers through Mindsets in the Classroom.

  As teachers began to put this new knowledge into practice, the effects could be seen.

  “We found students who began the year below level in reading making gains and no longer pushing reading materials away in frustration,” Hranitzky said. “They have built persistence and are more likely to ask for the harder problems when given an option of choices.”

 

  The numbers back up Hranitzky’s observations. Several areas have seen marked improvement, including the following from the first-grade Texas Primary Reading Inventory.

 

           
First Grade: Percentage of Students Scoring Proficient on the TPRI
Beginning of the Year Middle of the Year Gain
Phonological Awareness 62% 84% 35%
Graphophonemic Knowledge 65% 85% 31%
Word Reading 18% 52% 189%
Fluency 38% 72% 89%
Comprehension 25% 66% 164%

 

 

  One student in particular started the year with high levels of anxiety but later embraced the idea that her learning was tied to how hard she worked, not how “smart” she was—key to a growth mindset. By the end of the school year, she had been on the A/B Honor Roll twice and asked the teacher for paperwork to apply for gifted-and-talented screening.

  Across the campus, teachers reported hearing “I can’t do this” less this past year, Hranitzky said. “Our pre-K students even embrace that they have to work hard to grow their brain.”

  Best of all, the ideas from the book study and the culture it created didn’t end after the monthly meetings. Emile Elementary now holds ongoing mindset-related read-aloud lessons in the classroom and has held two family literacy nights.

 

  “Teachers need to take their mindset seriously,” said Christina Phillips, a prekindergarten teacher at Emile. “Anyone working in the school environment can have such a powerful effect on students if only they have the right mindset.”

Tags: Vaughn Gross Center  Texas Literacy Initiative 

Write for Texas launches its third program year
August 5, 2016

The Write for Texas project, entering its third year, has extended its reach to more than 200 schools in 100 districts across the state.

Since its beginnings in late 2013, Write for Texas has made significant strides in improving academic writing instruction in the secondary grades. An alternative to formulaic writing instruction, the project offers a series of online professional development resources aimed at integrating reading and writing activities across all content areas.

Additionally, the project supports schools and districts across the state with a cadre of more than 100 professional writing coaches. Participants tout this collaborative network as one of the greatest strengths of the project, providing opportunities for individual teachers to align their instruction with research-based practices and streamline their approach to teaching writing.

The 27 project sites, including all 20 regional education service centers and seven university-based national writing projects, will continue effecting change at the local level. Additionally, regional Summer Institutes are expected to continue in 2017, where coaches design and deliver professional development specific to the needs of educators in their respective service areas.

For more information, view the promotional video below and visit the Write for Texas external website.

 

Write for Texas 

Middle School Matters Institute unveils new website
August 1, 2016

MCPER’s Middle School Matters Institute (MSMI) has launched a new website designed specifically for educators: https://greatmiddleschools.org.

The new site has a user-friendly interface for anyone looking to improve middle grades education, especially the following:

  • District and school leaders
  • Curriculum facilitators
  • Instructional coaches
  • Department chairs
  • Classroom teachers

Educators and researchers can access the Middle School Matters Field Guide and the accompanying resources that translate research into action in the following areas:

  • Research-based instruction
  • Student supports that enhance learning
  • Informed decision-making

Additionally, the website features ready-to-use instructional toolkits and implementation tools.

For more information, view a brief introductory video or contact MSMI.

Tags: Middle School Matters Institute 

Middle School Matters Institute to provide summer professional development in San Angelo
June 22, 2016

MCPER’s Middle School Matters Institute (MSMI) is collaborating with San Angelo Independent School District in San Angelo, Texas, to provide professional development for teachers, paraprofessionals, instructional coaches, counselors, and administrators who serve students in fourth to ninth grades.

The “Summer Learning-palooza” will be a conference-style event with sessions featuring San Angelo’s lead educators and MSMI’s national experts in reading (Deborah Reed, University of Iowa), writing (Tanya Santangelo, Arcadia University), and mathematics (Sarah Powell, The University of Texas at Austin). Sessions will be held in the morning and afternoon on June 29 and August 4 and will provide participants with hands-on, practical, research-based strategies that can be immediately implemented in the classroom.

Registration is free and open to all school districts in Texas. For more information, contact Matt Kimball at Matthew.Kimball@saisd.org or 325–947–3838 (extension 718).

As an extension of the “Learning-palooza,” MSMI’s David Barrett will work with leadership teams from San Angelo’s three middle schools—Lee, Glenn, and Lincoln—to develop implementation goals and plans that will facilitate translating the research presented into practice. This work will build upon San Angelo’s implementation of Middle School Matters principles and practices from the past 2 years. Since 2014, San Angelo has been selected twice to participate in the Middle School Matters program (funded by the George W. Bush Institute) and receive intensive professional development and support to build its capacity in reading, writing, and mathematics instruction and intervention.

Tags: Middle School Matters Institute 

MCPER developing state’s new Literacy Achievement and Reading to Learn Academies
May 25, 2016

MCPER is developing the research-based content for the statewide Literacy Achievement Academies and Reading to Learn Academies, part of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's literacy initiative through the Texas Education Agency. 

The Academies will provide evidence-based professional development targeting kindergarten and grade 1 teachers beginning this summer and grades 2–5 teachers next summer. UT's Institute for Public School Initiatives is heading up the rollout of the training.

For more information, see the UT College of Education news story.