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Leite and Collier win best paper award

Walter Leite

Walter Leite

Zachary Collier

Zachary Collier

A research paper by Associate Professor Walter Leite and doctoral candidate Zachary Collier won the most distinguished award in the Florida Educational Research Association’s annual advanced educational research paper competition.

The College of Education scholars won for a methodological paper based on Collier’s master’s thesis, which concluded that “higher levels of Algebra Nation usage corresponds to higher passing rates in the Algebra I end-of-course exam.”

Leite and Collier measured school passing rates on the exam and the number of teacher and student Algebra Nation logins, videos watched and other variables to reach their conclusions.

High school students in Florida are required to pass the Algebra 1 exam to graduate. Algebra Nation is a free online study resource developed by UF’s Lastinger Center for Learning that provides a free, 24-hour Internet-based learning environment. It is now used by thousands of teachers and students in all of the state’s 67 Florida school districts.

“Collier and Leite’s paper was the clear first” among three the three finalists in the “highly competitive” contest, said Donna Buckner, president-elect of FERA and the founder and president of the Lakeland Institute for Learning.

Reviewers from the University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida and the University of Miami ranked the papers with no author information provided. The technical title of the paper was “Testing the Effectiveness of Three-Step Approaches for Auxiliary Variables in Latent Class and Latent Profile Analysis.”

More specifically the paper “demonstrates the use of state of the art statistical methods to estimate the effects of Algebra Nation usage on Algebra end-of-course passing rates,” Leite said.

They focused on methods to group schools according to “the degree their students and teachers used Algebra Nation, and then evaluate whether differences in passing rates across these groups was statistically significant.”

Leite is an associate professor in the college’s UF’s Research and Evaluation Methods program. His specialty is working with massive amounts of information to analyze the effectiveness of teaching tools and educational programs. Collier won a McKnight Doctoral Fellowship in May based on his academic achievements and promising future.

The Lastinger Center, UF’s educational innovation incubator, created Algebra Nation in partnership with the Florida Legislature, Governor’s Office and Department of Education, as well as Study Edge, a Gainesville-based company that helps high school and college students improve their learning through technology.

Florida Educational Research Association named the scholars the winners on Nov. 20 at the group’s annual conference in Altamonte Springs.

Writer: Charles Boisseau, (352) 273-4449
Source: Walter Leite, (352) 273-4302