English learners, students whose primary language is one other than English, represent one of the fastest-growing student populations in the United States. These students contribute an abundance of cultural and linguistic knowledge to schools. However, national data consistently show that these students underperform relative to their monolingual peers. There is, therefore, a pressing need to identify evidence-based practices to improve educational policies and instructional practices for English learners.
With a $10 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences, a team led by David Francis of the University of Houston that includes MCPER researchers will meet this challenge by establishing a national research and development center dedicated to improving educational outcomes for English learners in the secondary grades.
Francis, the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished University Chair of Psychology at the University of Houston, will serve as the director of the new research center. The MCPER team will include Sharon Vaughn, who will serve as the associate director, and Leticia Martinez and Phil Capin, who will serve as co-principal investigators. The investigative team will include other prominent researchers, including Diane August and Joel Gómez (Center for Applied Linguistics), Catherine Snow (Harvard Graduate School of Education), Michael J. Kieffer and Lorena Llosa (New York University), Suzanne Donovan (Strategic Education Research Partnership), and Jeremy Miciak and Coleen Carlson (University of Houston).
“This is an exciting opportunity for us to explore and better understand the specific needs of English learners and the most effective ways to enhance their academic outcomes,” Vaughn said. “I am thankful to have the opportunity to collaborate with this impressive team and eager to get started.”
Federally funded research and development centers have a mission to produce and disseminate rigorous evidence and products that provide practical solutions to important educational challenges. The new educational research center will examine policies and system-level practices that influence English learners; develop and test content area literacy approaches for improving social studies and science knowledge among English learners; and develop a robust dissemination network to ensure that findings reach school teachers, administrators, and policymakers nationwide.
Specifically, the MCPER team will lead the development and testing of social studies practices for English learners in grades 6 and 9. Through a series of randomized control trials over the next 5 years, the center will test the effectiveness of these instructional approaches in Texas and New York.
MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn has co-authored an evidence brief on supporting students with disabilities, one of three works released to launch the EdResearch for Recovery Project.
The project, a national effort led by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University and Results for America, is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. EdResearch for Recovery will provide "rapid-turnaround evidence briefs from top researchers to help answer the most pressing education-related questions from policymakers, educators, parents, and other advocates as they respond and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic," according to a press release. "The project team identified two dozen priority questions, and asked leading researchers to write short briefs—grounded in peer-reviewed research and evidence—to help inform key decision points and recovery strategies for policymakers, educators, and other leaders."
Vaughn co-authored her brief, Academic Supports for Students With Disabilities, with Nathan Jones of Boston University and Lynn Fuchs of Vanderbilt University. For more information, including a list of planned topics, visit the EdResearch for Recovery website.
The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk has been approved as an authorized provider of the upcoming Reading Academies for K–3 teachers statewide.
Mandated by House Bill 3, passed by the 86th Texas Legislature, K–3 teachers must attend the professional development academies by the 2021–2022 school year.
As an authorized provider, MCPER will partner with local education agencies across the state to conduct registration, logistics, technical assistance, implementation of the professional development, and program evaluation. Local education agencies interested in partnering with us can contact MCPER by email.
For more information, visit the Texas Education Agency website.
MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn and Boston University's Amie Grills will present next month at a national conference of The Dyslexia Foundation at UCLA.
Their presentation, "Classroom Strategies to Address Anxiety in Children Who Struggle With Reading," will explore the MCPER project Improving Reading and Reducing Reading Anxiety Among Students With Reading Difficulties. Along with MCPER Associate Director Greg Roberts, Vaughn and Grills are co-principal investigators of the project, the first and only initiative with 2 years of data on anxiety and struggling readers.
The theme of this year's conference, to be held on February 14, is "Dyslexia and Literacy: Understanding Anxiety and the Struggling Reader." According to The Dyslexia Foundation, the conference is designed to help "teachers, practitioners, and parents ... learn to identify, understand, and provide evidence-based instruction for struggling readers who have anxiety. The focus of these discussions will be for school-age students." For more information and to register, visit the website of The Dyslexia Foundation.
Sharon Vaughn to present at international conference in Paris
December 11, 2019
MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn will be featured at the third International Conference of the French National Education Scientific Council next month in Paris, France.
Vaughn will present "Promoting Access to Learning for Children With Disabilities" at the event, held on January 9 at the Collège de France. For more information, read the conference program, which is provided in both French and English.
A $6.4 million, 5-year grant will support the training of a new cohort of 28 doctoral students as part of the National Center for Leadership in Intensive Intervention (NCLII).
MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn and Principal Investigator Sarah Powell will serve on the Leadership Committee as representatives of The University of Texas at Austin, one of seven partner universities. The other universities taking part are Vanderbilt University, University of Connecticut, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Minnesota, University of Georgia, and Michigan State University.
The goal of the project is to "produce a cohort of scholars capable of preparing generations of special education personnel to meet the needs of students with comorbid and complex learning and behavior difficulties and to conduct the highest level of research on this topic," according to an NCLII announcement. Also, the project will "host summer workshops to provide additional, focused training in key topics related to leadership development in intensive intervention. The consortium also provides interested scholars with connections to internships with national centers supported by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs."
MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn will lead the expert panel developing a new installment of the popular and influential Institute of Education Sciences What Works Clearinghouse practice guide series.
Vaughn and other nationally renowned experts will pool their knowledge to create a new guide on evidence-based practices for assisting struggling readers in grades 4–9. The panel will include practice, content, and methodological experts who evaluate research and develop specific recommendations. According to the Institute of Education Sciences, the practice guides present "practical, evidence-based recommendations to teachers and administrators about how to address current challenges in education ... For each recommendation, information is provided about how to carry out the recommendation, possible implementation roadblocks, and the strength of the research evidence that supports the recommendation."
The current initiative to revise existing practice guides and develop new guides is led by Principal Investigator Russell Gersten and Project Director Madhavi Jayanthi of Instructional Research Group.
For more information and to download existing practice guides, visit the What Works Clearinghouse website.
MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn has been selected to serve on the newly formed statewide Reading Advisory Committee.
The committee is one of five established through Texas House Bills 3 and 3906. The other commitees are Special Education, Compensatory Education, Financial Aid, and Assessment. The experts on the Reading Committee will advise the Texas Education Agency on its plans to support reading education.
In addition to Vaughn, Jack Fletcher—director of the Texas Center for Learning Disabilities, which is jointly based at MCPER and the University of Houston—was selected to serve on the committee. For more information and a list of the other committee members, read the Texas Education Agency announcement.
MCPER's Sarah Powell will join a team of partners to help lead a new project that will combine math, music, and computational thinking instruction for kindergarten students.
Powell will serve as co-principal investigator on the project, titled Young Academic Music and Computational Thinking for Kindergarten. In Texas, the project will partner with rural school districts to pilot the program in kindergarten classrooms and to learn what works and what is challenging for teachers with little training in music and technology. The 5-year, $1.5 million grant is funded by the Office of Innovation and Improvement in the U.S. Department of Education.
Seats still available for second round of reading instruction workshops
September 27, 2019
MCPER and Humanities Texas are set to begin the second round of their popular workshops on best practices in reading instruction for fourth- through sixth-grade educators.
Each workshop will include three 1-day sessions; teachers are expected to attend all three sessions. The Austin workshop series will be held on October 23, December 4, and January 29 at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. In San Antonio, the workshops will be held on October 24, December 5, and January 30 at Trinity University. The workshops will feature interactive sessions on word study and recognition, vocabulary, and reading comprehension with an emphasis on social studies texts. Each workshop will build on the previous session and align with the reading and comprehension Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills. Presenters will include MCPER Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Schnakenberg and longtime MCPER collaborators Diane Haager and Alejandra Rodriguez Mielke.
Humanities Texas will provide funds to cover substitute teachers and the cost of travel, in accordance with Texas reimbursement rates. Participating teachers also will receive CPE credit and curricular materials.
For more information, including how to register, visit the Humanities Texas website.