Response to Intervention Institute


Photo of Elizabeth Swanson

Elizabeth Swanson

Dr. Elizabeth Swanson is principal investigator of the Strategies for Reading Information and Vocabulary Effectively (STRIVE) project, co-investigator of the Promoting Adolescents’ Comprehension of Text (PACT) project, and co-principal investigator of the Promoting Adolescents’ Comprehension of Text + Responsive Instruction for Students With Disabilities (PACT+) project. For more information, read Swanson's full bio.

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Christy Austin

Christy Austin is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in special education at The University of Texas at Austin. Before starting the program, Austin worked for 2 years as a first- and second-grade teacher at Rawson Saunders, a private school for students with dyslexia. Prior to teaching at Rawson Saunders, she worked as a special education coordinator and assistant principal at KIPP: Camino Academy in San Antonio, Texas. She was responsible for developing and monitoring the implementation of individualized education programs for students receiving special education services, developing and monitoring the services provided to students under 504, managing student discipline, coaching and supervising teachers, and presenting professional development to staff members related to special education training, school culture, and discipline. She also spent 2 years as a life-skills teacher at Chase’s Place, a school for students with moderate to severe developmental disabilities. She received a B.A. in humanities from Trinity University, where she played college tennis and was a two-time All-American doubles player. She received an M.Ed. in special education from The University of Texas at Austin, specializing in learning disabilities and behavioral disorders. She is particularly interested in research on reading interventions for students with disabilities, English language learners, and issues of educational equality for traditionally underserved communities.

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Diane Pedrotty Bryant

Dr. Diane Pedrotty Bryant is a professor of learning disabilities in the Department of Special Education at The University of Texas at Austin and director of the Mathematics and Science Institute for Students With Special Needs at MCPER. Bryant holds the Mollie Villeret Davis Professorship in Learning Disabilities. She received her doctorate from the University of New Mexico in 1986. She has taught students with learning disabilities and has served as a special education teacher and an administrator in the Albuquerque, New Mexico, public schools. Currently, she is the principal investigator of an Institute of Education Sciences-funded Goal 2 grant (R324A120364) that focuses on the development and field testing of interventions for Tier 2 sixth- and seventh-grade students who have mathematics difficulties and receive instruction in math intervention classes (Project AIM). She served as the principal investigator for a multiyear Institute of Education Sciences-funded grant (Goal 2) that focused on the development and validation of early numeracy assessment and intervention materials in local schools and in a 2-year state-funded scale-up project for early numeracy progress-monitoring and intervention materials (English and Spanish). She also served as the principal investigator of the Middle School Teachers Algebra Readiness intervention grant, which involved lesson development and piloting in middle schools. She was the principal investigator for the 3-Tier Mathematics Project, including interventions and the Texas Early Mathematics Inventories, which were funded by the Texas Education Agency. Most recently, she has been involved in research studies focusing on early numeracy instruction with students with autism, word problem solving strategy intervention with students who have learning disabilities, middle school Tier 2 rational numbers interventions, and writing instruction for primary grades studies. She is the co-editor-in-chief of Learning Disability Quarterly, the author or co-author of textbooks and articles, and serves on the editorial boards of special education journals. For more information, read Bryant's full bio

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Lisa Didion

Lisa Didion is currently pursing her Ph.D. in special education at The University of Texas at Austin. Didion grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and attended the University of Missouri-Columbia. She received a bachelor’s degree in cross-categorical disabilities and obtained her teaching license for students with special needs in kindergarten to grade 12. While in school, she worked as a respite care provider for a child with autism. She moved to Nashville, Tennessee, upon graduation to earn her master’s in behavior disorders. She gained experience as a liaison for Positive Behavior Support. Upon graduation, she spent 2009 to 2015 as a special education teacher for kindergarten to grade 5 students in Wilmington, Delaware. She taught students with moderate to severe mental, behavioral, physical, and learning disabilities in both self-contained and inclusive settings. After school hours, she taught in the homes of students who were put on homebound instruction because they were deemed a threat to the school environment. Beyond the classroom, she was active as a Girls on the Run coach, Positive Behavior Support team leader, School Health and Wellness team leader, Building Leadership team member, and Math Council representative. She served as a member of her district’s Special Education Committee and the Elementary Grade Reporting Committee. She was named Teacher of the Year in 2013–2014.

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Katherine Ledbetter-Cho

Katherine Ledbetter-Cho is a doctoral student in special education with a concentration in autism and developmental disabilities at The University of Texas. Ledbetter-Cho holds a bachelor of science degree in special education from the University of Georgia and a master of science degree in autism and applied behavior analysis from Texas State University. Her primary research interests include parent training and interventions designed to improve the communication and play skills of children with autism.

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Sarah Powell

Dr. Sarah R. Powell is the associate director of MCPER. Powell also is the principal investigator of the Developing Connections Between Word Problems and Mathematical Equations to Promote Word-Problem Performance Among Students With Mathematics Difficulty project funded by Institute of Education Sciences. She is a recipient of a National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship and a Greater Texas Foundation Faculty Fellowship. For more information, read Powell's full bio.

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Jennifer B. Schnakenberg

Dr. Jennifer B. Schnakenberg is the chief operating officer of MCPER. For more information, read Schnakenberg's full bio.

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Jessica Toste

Dr. Jessica R. Toste is an assistant professor in the Department of Special Education at The University of Texas at Austin. Toste received her Ph.D. in educational psychology from McGill University (Montreal) in 2011. Her research interests are related to students with learning disabilities and effective reading interventions, with a particular focus on psychosocial processes and classroom climate as determinants of school success. She has published articles and book chapters on resilience factors related to achievement and psychosocial functioning of at-risk youth. She was trained in reading intervention research as a postdoctoral fellow at Vanderbilt University (2011–2013) and as a Fulbright scholar/visiting researcher at the Florida Center for Reading Research (2008–2009). She was the recipient of the Canadian Education Association’s 2012 Pat Clifford Award for Early Career Research in Education. She is also a licensed elementary school teacher in Quebec and has extensive experience as a reading specialist. To contact Toste, visit the UT Austin Department of Special Education website.

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Thea Woodruff

Dr. Althea Woodruff provides support to Texas state-level partners, districts, and schools through the Building RTI Capacity for Implementation in Texas Schools project at UT Austin’s Meadows Center and occasionally lectures at the University. She is also the lead author on Texas's Literacy Achievement Academies, K-3, and Reading to Learn Academies, 4-5 (2016-17). Prior to this work, Dr. Woodruff was the reading specialist and English/language arts coordinator for Del Valle ISD.

Before her work as a district administrator, Dr. Woodruff was a project director, researcher, and instructor at The University of Texas at Austin. At the University’s Vaughn Gross Center for Reading and Language Arts, she directed the Texas Reading First project and worked on several research projects related to reading instruction and interventions and professional development with teachers, including a project examining the implementation of a 3-Tier Model in reading for K-3 students.

Additionally, she provides professional development and technical assistance related to research-based literacy instructional practices, understanding and using data, and response to intervention (RTI) to states, districts, and schools.