Registration is open for Building Bridges V(irtual) International Conference
May 16, 2022

Free registration is available online for the Building Bridges V(irtual) International Conference, sponsored by the University of Nicosia (Greece) and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The theme of this year’s conference, held June 1–3, is “Best Practices for the Inclusive Education of Diverse Students During Challenging Times.”

According to the conference website, the Building Bridges convenings “bring together the international community to discuss innovative solutions to complex social and educational issues our students with disabilities and their families continuously face. The ongoing worldwide pandemic has made us even more cognizant of the importance of collective work.”

For more information and to register, visit the conference website.

Jessica Toste selected as Fellow with Research Institute for Implementation Science in Education
March 31, 2022

MCPER’s Jessica Toste has been accepted as 2-year Fellow with the University of Washington Research Institute for Implementation Science in Education (RIISE). The fellowship begins with the RIISE Summer Institute in Seattle, Washington, in June 2022.

The RIISE training program will support Fellows in acquiring, building fluency with, and applying research knowledge and skills to develop high-quality implementation studies that bridge the “last mile,” in which education research often fails to reach the individuals for whom it was intended, despite considerable evidence for the effectiveness of a wide variety of educational curricula, programs, practices, and interventions. This gap exists because education research often is not accessible, usable, or relevant to teachers and other front-line practitioners.

“I will build on my current, ongoing program of research, and the RIISE fellowship will support preparation of implementation research grants for submission to federal sponsors,” Toste said.

UT Austin College of Education Dean Charles R. Martinez Jr. supported Toste’s application and will serve as her “local mentor” to ensure follow-up support in preparing research grants in implementation research.

“As a prevention scientist specializing in minority education and health disparities, Dean Martinez is committed to research that moves evidence-based practices into communities. I am excited to learn from his research that has led to uptake and sustainability of evidence-based practices in real-world settings,” Toste said. “I am also looking forward to collaborating further with my colleagues in the Texas Center for Equity Promotion.”

For more information, visit the RIISE website.

New WWC practice guide on reading interventions for grades 4–9 is released
March 29, 2022

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) has released its newest practice guide, Providing Reading Interventions for Students in Grades 4–9. MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn chaired the practice guide’s advisory panel.

Download the guide from the WWC website.

The practice guide offers the following evidence-based recommendations:

  • Build decoding skills so students can read complex multisyllabic words.
  • Provide purposeful fluency-building activities to help students read effortlessly.
  • Routinely use a set of comprehension-building practices to help students make sense of the text.
  • Provide students with opportunities to practice making sense of stretch (challenging) text that will expose them to complex ideas and information.

In addition, WWC will hold a free webinar on the guide, featuring Vaughn and others, from 11 a.m. to noon (Central) on April 13. Panelists will summarize each recommendation and strategies for application during reading intervention. To register, visit the WWC website.

Institute of Education Sciences to hold summer workshops on research methods
February 8, 2022

Applications are open for four Institute of Education Sciences (IES) summer workshops on research methods.

The following workshop descriptions are from an IES announcement:

  • Evidence-Based Intervention Training for Education: This program trains teams (2–6 people) working together on the use of evidence-based interventions in educational settings. The teams may come from the same school or district and include research partners. The training will be held June 21–24 and follow-up coaching will be provided during the academic year. Applications are due by April 15. For more information, visit the website of The Ohio State University.
  • Economic Analysis: This program will hold two workshops. The first is a 3-day training (July 6–8) for state and local analysts who support significant policy decisions and the allocation of educational resources within and across districts. The second is a 5-day training (July 11–15) for education researchers who are undertaking or planning to undertake cost-effectiveness and benefit-cost analyses in education. Applications are due by noon on March 31. For more information, visit the website of the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education.
  • Cluster-Randomized Trials: This program provides training on carrying out rigorous evaluations of the impact of education interventions, including planning, implementing, and analyzing data for cluster-randomized trials. The workshop will be held June 20–30. Applications are due by March 18. For more information, visit the website of Northwestern University.
  • Meta-analysis: This program will train researchers in state-of-the-art meta-analytic techniques. The workshop will be held July 24–30. Applications are due by March 31. For more information, visit the website of the Meta-Analysis Training Institute.

MCPER wins federal funding through Research to Accelerate Pandemic Recovery in Special Education program
January 25, 2022

MCPER is launching a new research project after receiving federal funding through the Research to Accelerate Pandemic Recovery in Special Education program.

Math SPIRAL: Specialized Intervention to Reach All Learners, a 4-year project, is one of only two such programs nationwide in the first round of funding from the National Center for Special Education Research within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). The financial assistance award totals $2,987,746 with 100% funded by IES. MCPER Associate Director Sarah Powell will serve as the principal investigator.

"This grant program seeks to address the urgent challenges districts and schools face in supporting students with or at risk for disabilities, their teachers, and their families in the aftermath of the pandemic," according to an IES announcement. "The grants must be directly related to a pandemic problem, issue, or intervention; have the potential to rapidly improve outcomes for students with disabilities; and provide timely and actionable results to districts and schools."

The new project will test the efficacy of Math SPIRAL, a series of professional learning sessions with coaching for teachers. Each of these teachers works with students in grades 4–5 identified as having or being at risk for math disabilities through the previous year's mathematics State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR). The project will be carried out in Austin Independent School District, where the students who required small-group math intervention increased 24% in grade 3 and 23% in grade 4 from 2019 to 2021. State legislation mandates small-group math intervention for students identified through testing, so educators need an appropriate curriculum with relevant professional development and coaching.

For more information, visit the IES website.

MCPER Senior Associate Director Greg Roberts guest edits special section in top research journal
December 14, 2021

MCPER Senior Associate Director Greg Roberts has guest edited a special section in a recently published edition of Exceptional Children, a top research journal in the field.

The special section—devoted to adaptive intervention (AI) and sequential multiassignment randomized trials (SMART) designs—appeared in the October 2021 issue of the journal. In addition to editing the section, Roberts was the lead author in an article that provided an overview of AI and SMART, described Project BASIC (MCPER's own AI/SMART project), and introduced the two other research articles in the section. MCPER's Nathan Clemens, Christian Doabler, and Executive Director Sharon Vaughn are among the article's co-authors. The other articles in the special section are "Getting SMART About Social Skills Interventions for Students With ASD in Inclusive Classrooms" and "Early Lessons Learned in Designing an Adaptive Shared Reading Intervention for Preschoolers With Autism."

The impact factor for Exceptional Children is in the top 10 among developmental and educational psychology journals and in the top 20 of all education-focused journals. It is number 3 among journals that address special populations.

Sarah Powell named associate director of MCPER
December 7, 2021

Sarah Powell—a member of the MCPER Board of Directors, principal investigator of multiple MCPER projects, and associate professor with the UT Austin Department of Special Education—has been named the associate director of MCPER.

“Sarah is a tremendous addition to the MCPER leadership team,” said Greg Roberts, who will be continuing with MCPER as its new senior associate director. “She is an accomplished scholar, a skilled professional development provider, and a terrific colleague. She brings energy, ideas, and enthusiasm to her role as associate director, and I look forward to continuing our collaboration.”

Powell began her work with MCPER in 2013. In her new role, she will work with the MCPER leadership team and coordinate efforts related to outreach. Powell has big plans to expand MCPER’s expertise and reach, and she is eager to get to work.

“I want to develop meaningful avenues for sharing research with educators and caregivers,” she said. “I also want to develop ways for MCPER to be a go-to resource for evidence-based practices for educators across the world.”

Powell is the daughter of two teachers, and two of her grandparents were teachers. “I couldn’t have avoided this if I tried!” she said.

Powell graduated from Centre College and then went to Vanderbilt University for a degree in school administration. Along the way, she taught kindergarten and spent several years working on research projects focused on students who experience difficulty with mathematics. She earned her Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University with a focus on special education. Among her many awards, Powell received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2019.

At MCPER, Powell is principal investigator of the Developing Connections Between Word Problems and Mathematical Equations, Interactive Read-Alouds for Prekindergarten and Kindergarten to Improve Literacy and Numeracy Skills, Promoting Scientific Explorers Among Students With Learning Disabilities, and Tiered Interventions Using Evidence-Based Research projects.

Plus join us in congratulating Dr. Powell!

MCPER partner featured in struggling readers webcast, article on science of teaching reading
December 2, 2021

The executive director of curriculum and instruction for Midlothian Integrated School District, a partner of MCPER, served as an expert in two major newspapers' features on reading instruction, and both are now available online.

Becki Krsnak was a panelist for a webcast about science- and data-based practices to improve flagging reading rates on Nov. 16 as part of The Seattle Times's Ed Lab Solutions project. View the webcast online.

Krsnak, along with MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn, also was featured in a story by The Dallas Morning News about the science of teaching reading. That story is available on the newspaper's website.

Vaughn to serve on expert panel for virtual conference to address declining reading performance, widening gap
May 28, 2021

MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn will serve on an expert panel for a virtual conference to address the declining reading performance of America’s lowest-performing readers and the widening gap between low- and high-performing readers.

"IES Reading Summit: Linking Data and Learning" will be held on June 8 and 9. The event is co-hosted by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and the Council of the Great City Schools.

For more information, and to register for this free event, visit the conference website.

MCPER’s partnership with Humanities Texas continues with online institute in June
May 26, 2021

MCPER researchers and collaborators will lead another installment of their institute series with Humanities Texas in June—this time, focusing on reading instruction for English language arts and social studies teachers in grades 6 to 8.

"Teaching Evidence-Based Reading Practices at the Secondary Level" will be held online from June 15 to 17, featuring MCPER Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Schnakenberg and longtime MCPER collaborators Diane Haager and María Elena Argüelles. The Zoom sessions will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. each day, and an optional follow-up webinar will be held from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. on July 26. The content will align with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and will focus on reading instruction and content area literacy using social studies texts. 

This free institute is available to all sixth- through eighth-grade English language arts and social studies teachers in Texas. To register, and for more information, visit the Humanities Texas website. Registration closes at 5 p.m. on June 10.