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Visiting teachers of Chinese enhance their skills through COE-sponsored StarTalk program


Thanks to a summer teacher development program sponsored jointly by the UF College of Education and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, more than 70 youngsters filled the Boys and Girls Club of Gainesville recently for a fun-filled summer week of StarTalk, a federally funded teacher development program in which students learn conversational Chinese while studying Far East culture through hands-on activities. BELOW: WATCH THE VIDEO, READ THE STORY. 



More than 70 youngsters filled the Boys and Girls Club of Gainesville recently for a fun-filled summer week of learning to speak conversational Chinese while studying Far East culture through hands-on activities.

The UF College of Education and the UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ department of Literacy, Language and Culture have co-sponsored StarTalk – a federally funded teacher development program — each of the past four years. StarTalk was established in 2006 to promote the nationwide teaching of “critical needs” languages such as Chinese, Russian and Arabic.

UF StarTalk program director Patricia Jacobs, who also serves as a writing coach at UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, said the program’s objectives are simple.

“One-fifth of the world’s population speaks Chinese, so it stands to reason that more of us should know how to speak it,” Jacobs said. “Skilled teachers are critical to this learning process, and they’re the focus of this program.”

The COE’s StarTalk program is exclusive to teachers of Chinese, nearly all of them China natives who teach at different schools throughout the U.S. Each year they attend afternoon training sessions at UF’s Norman Hall led by COE faculty members before applying what they learn during morning classes with kids ages 5-18 at the Boys and Girls Club.

Fifteen teachers from as far away as Texas and Massachusetts took part in this year’s program, according to Danling Fu, a UF literacy education professor who specializes in graduate and undergraduate level writing and language instruction. 

“Classes are taught much differently in China, so what they gain here helps them become more effective when teaching American children,” said Fu, who serves as lead instructor. “They’re very enthusiastic and the children respond well to that. It’s fun to watch them interact.”

Students were introduced to common Chinese words and phrases while receiving lessons in Chinese culture, such as learning how to make sweet dumplings — called tang yu’an in Chinese – and creating colorful paper lanterns for the Lantern Festival, a celebration dating back to the Han dynasty of 206 BC to 25 AD.

UF student and Taiwan native Eric Fu, who is majoring in criminology with a minor in Chinese, said he attended the StarTalk sessions to broaden his horizons about cultural education.

“It was interesting to see how passionate the teachers were, and how enthusiastically the kids responded,” Fu said. “I’ve been learning a lot from the teachers, but probably just as much by watching the students. All that will be helpful to me in terms of interpersonal dynamics.”

StarTalk is a multi-agency initiative funded primarily by the Department of Defense’s National Security Agency. Cynthia Chennault, a COE associate professor of Chinese language and literature, serves as co-instructional leader.

Other StarTalk sponsors include the National Foreign Language Center in Riverdale Park, Md., and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages headquartered in Alexandria, Va.

Source: Danling Fu, UF College of Education, danlingfu@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-392-9191, ext. 20.
Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137.
Writer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications; skindland@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-3449.

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Teen traffic deaths inspire UF professors to write award-winning article, “A Science That Saves Lives’

Griff Jones, a clinical associate professor of science education in the UF College of Education, knows only too well that the laws of physics apply to everyone.

“I was a high school physics teacher, and I lost a lot of students to car crashes,” said Jones, who spent two decades teaching at UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School in Gainesville. “Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of death among teenagers.”

COE professors Linda and Griff Jones send a hand-made paper test car down a race track Griff Jones designed using sections of a plastic rain gutter.

COE professors Linda and Griff Jones send a hand-made paper test car down a race track Griff Jones designed using sections of a plastic rain gutter.

That’s why Jones and his wife, Linda Jones, a COE associate professor of science and environmental education, co-authored a cover story titled “A Science That Saves Lives” for the January 2013 issue of The Science Teacher, an academic journal sponsored by the National Science Teachers Association.

Their efforts paid off when the Association of American Publishers named their article a finalist in the Distinguished Achievement Award category of the recently held Revere Awards competition. The Revere Awards is the most prestigious recognition program in the learning resource community, according to the Association of Educational Publishers, which once sponsored the awards under a different name.

Receiving accolades for articles isn’t new to the husband-wife research team, but gaining recognition for their story on motor vehicle crashes involving teens meant something special.

“When I worked on my Ph.D. at UF, part of my dissertation was to help the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety write and produce a science education video for students on the understanding of car crashes,” said Griff Jones, who also is director of the COE’s STEM Teacher Induction and Professional Support (STEM TIPS) program. “The number of teen traffic deaths has gone down, but there are still way too many – more than 2,800 a year.”

Together the Joneses not only have kept up with matters related to physical science, but human behavior as well. Their cover story is based on research suggesting that a lack of emotional and cognitive maturity among teenagers increases risky driving practices such as speeding, tailgating and not wearing seat belts. 

Their article outlines a “truly life-saving teaching lesson” for high school science educators by combining Internet research with classroom “crash tests” using paper cars designed and built by students; a 6-meter “race track” made from plastic rain gutter sections; a step ladder; and a concrete block that serves as an abrupt “finish line.”

Raw eggs serve as vehicle occupants, and damage to them is measured and recorded at different speeds made possible by placing the track’s starting line on a higher rung of the ladder. Students are challenged to create cars with front ends weak enough to absorb the energy of a high-speed crash, yet strong enough to remain intact and protect the egg.       

By project’s end, students have learned to apply two physics concepts used in real-world vehicle safety engineering: momentum and impulse. Momentum is the mass of an object multiplied by its velocity, and measures the difficulty of stopping a moving object. Impulse is the net momentum change during a collision and is measured as the product of the average force exerted on an object.

“It really makes students confront themselves with their misconceptions about their chances of surviving a crash,” said Linda Jones, who serves as coordinator of the COE’s science and environmental education program. “They also learn about the vital role seat belts play in surviving a head-on collision.”

The Joneses’ article can be found at www.nsta.org, the National Science Teachers Association website.

    Source: Griff Jones, UF College of Education; gjones@coe.ufl.edu;   
    Source: Linda Jones, UF College of Education; ljones@coe.ufl.edu.
    Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu
    Writer: Stephen Kindland, staff writer, UF College of Education; skindland@coe.ufl.edu



UF pioneering ‘STEAM’ elementary ed. at Coral Gables school

While St. Thomas Episcopal Parish School in Coral Gables, Fla., was designing its STEM laboratory three years ago, the University of Florida’s College of Education was expanding its K-12 STEM teacher preparation programs in several Florida school districts. The two institutions now are teaming up to take STEM education at the elementary school level to new heights.

Linda Jones

Linda Jones

At St. Thomas, STEM has evolved into STEAM–with the addition of art to the four original STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and math). The concept of teaching STEM subjects through integrated, hands-on, community-based, service-learning projects rather than as stand-alone disciplines has been at the educational forefront for many middle and high school programs in recent years. Developing a comprehensive STEM/STEAM program for the elementary grades, however, is a pioneering adventure that St. Thomas and UF are ambitiously pursuing–full STEAM ahead.

UF faculty consultants from the College of Education’s mathematics and science education programs are now evaluating St. Thomas’s current STEM/STEAM program as a first step of a two-year plan. After completing a thorough inventory of what St. Thomas already has in place in terms of facilities, faculty training, resources and equipment, the UF team will determine the essential ingredients for implementing a school-wide STEM/STEAM education program.  

The UF researchers will collaborate with St. Thomas faculty and administrators to set goals, create an integrated curriculum map and provide teachers with STEAM-focused professional development, training and resources. After the STEAM program is launched, St. Thomas will sponsor a STEAM Education Institute to train other interested elementary school educators across Florida.

Tim Jacobbe

Tim Jacobbe

“Our collaboration with St. Thomas will provide participating students with opportunities to put their STEAM-related knowledge and skills to practical use by addressing real-world science-related problems and issues in their local community,” said Linda Jones, UF associate professor of science and environmental education, who is coordinating UF’s activities in the project. “Collaborative efforts like this benefit everyone involved including students, teachers, parents and the local community. ”

UF’s Tim Jacobbe, UF associate professor of mathematics and statistics education, is working with Jones on the project.

   Linda L. Cronin Jones, Ph.D., UF College of Education: lcjones@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4223


UF’s summer Algebra Nation program launched in Jacksonville, aided by $2M in state funds

Thanks to $2 million from the Florida Legislature, about 1,000 Duval County rising 10th-graders who failed the high-stakes Algebra 1 end-of-course exam have a chance to pass it this summer.

The University of Florida is piloting its Algebra Nation summer program in Jacksonville June 16-July 26. The legislature’s $2 million allocation will also fund this new program in 2015, when UF plans to fully roll it out.

For Florida’s high school students, the Algebra 1 end-of-course exam is as high stakes as it gets – it determines their future. They must pass it to graduate.

Built by the UF Lastinger Center in partnership with the Florida Legislature, Governor’s Office and Department of Education, as well as Gainesville-based Study Edge, Algebra Nation offers students, teachers and parents a free, highly effective, interactive, 24/7 online resource aligned with the latest state standards.

“The new summer program draws heavily on Algebra Nation’s interactive video lessons, study guides and statewide Algebra Wall,” said Don Pemberton, director of UF’s Lastinger Center, which develops and runs Algebra Nation. “These are available on desktops, laptops, iPhones, Android phones and iPads through the Algebra Nation web app and Facebook app.”

More than 250,000 students and 3,300 teachers in all 67 Florida schools districts used Algebra Nation this past school year.

Of the 1,000 Jacksonville students participating in the new summer program, 350 will attend an Algebra Nation Summer Camp, where they will receive iPads. Successful completers will keep them.

Besides the iPads, which allow students to watch Algebra Nation videos and ask questions on the Algebra Nation app, the camp will feature other math-based apps and the highly effective Algebra Nation curriculum.

The technology-infused learning will encompass about a quarter of the four-hour program each day. “The rest of the time,” said Study Edge President Ethan Fieldman, “will be spent on activities and games that encourage student collaboration, with the teachers in each classroom guiding students to master the concepts and boosting their confidence.

Duval County algebra teachers welcome this opportunity for some of their struggling students to catch up.

“Algebra Nation Summer Camp provides remarkable educational opportunities by creating exciting new ways to implement curriculum in the classroom,” said Paula Haigis, an algebra teacher at Duval’s Atlantic Coast High School. “Students will use the latest technology to prepare for the Algebra I End-of-course exam. I know my fellow teachers and I are incredibly excited because Algebra Nation changes the very mindset of how students learn algebra.”

Based at the UF College of Education, the Lastinger Center is an educational innovation incubator. It harnesses the university’s intellectual resources to design, build, field-test and scale models that advance teaching, learning and healthy child development. The center continuously evaluates and refines its work, widely disseminates its findings and roots its initiatives in a growing network of partner sites around the state and country.

Study Edge is a Gainesville-based enterprise that helps high school and college students improve their learning outcomes through technology. Its founder, Fieldman, was the first winner of the Cade Museum Prize for Innovation.


CONTACT: Boaz Dvir, bdvir@coe.ufl.edu, 352-273-0289

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UF teacher prep program is first in state accredited by international dyslexia group

The dual certification track of the COE’s Unified Elementary ProTeach program is one of the first teacher preparation programs in the nation to receive accreditation from the International Dyslexia Association, an impressive credential that should enhance the college’s student recruitment efforts.

UF special education professor Holly Lane said the accreditation comes just one year after the dual certification track was redesigned to include a three-course block on assessment and intervention for students with reading disabilities.

Holly Lane, shown teaching a literacy education class, led the accreditation effort with Linda Lombardino. Both are UF special educaiton faculty members.

Holly Lane, shown teaching a literacy education class, led the accreditation effort with Linda Lombardino. Both are UF special education professors.

“The timing was perfect,” Lane said. “Nearly every classroom in America has kids with dyslexia, so this accreditation means a lot in terms of showing how well we prepare our students to become fully qualified teachers.”

She said fellow special education professor Linda Lombardino played an integral part in developing the voluminous accreditation process.

“This was a total team effort,” Lane said. “Dr. Lombardino is widely recognized for her expertise in dyslexia.”

Students who choose the dual certification option of UF’s five-year ProTeach master’s degree program qualify for certification in both elementary and special education for grades K-12.

Dyslexia is a neurological learning disability that is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.

Secondary consequences could include problems with reading comprehension and delayed growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. 

UF’s College of Education is the first higher education institution in Florida to receive accreditation from the IDA, a non-profit, scientific and educational organization that operates 43 branches throughout North America and has global partners in 20 other countries.

The IDA has granted accreditation to just 17 universities and dyslexia therapy programs since it began the practice two years ago. 

“A number of schools are eager to be accredited by us,” IDA spokeswoman Elisabeth Liptak, said. “It gives them a competitive advantage when recruiting students in local markets.”

Ten to 15 percent of the U.S. population has dyslexia, yet only five out of every 100 dyslexics are recognized and receive assistance, according to the Dyslexia Research Institute in Tallahassee.

And that, Lane says, is what makes the COE’s accreditation so significant.

“Teaching teachers how to recognize children who have dyslexia is just as important as making sure they get the help they need,” she said.

Colleen Pollett, a former graduate student who received her master’s degree in special education in May, said she was impressed with the nine-credit-hour requirement and its contents, including a “Learnable Linguistics” tutoring method developed by COE adjunct professors Jane Andrews and Susan Vanderline.

“After I studied the course’s ‘Learnable Linguistics’ method, I was hired as a tutor for a fourth-grade student with dyslexia,” Pollett said. “I worked with him twice a week, and I saw incredible growth and progress in his reading comprehension, fluency and his word recognition. That confirmed it for me. The program really works. 

Pollett said she was surprised to learn that dyslexia affects a person’s ability to translate written words into meaningful text.

“People who have dyslexia aren’t slow learners,” she said. “It’s just that their brains process language in a different way, so traditional methods of teaching reading aren’t effective. “

Jean Crockett, director of the college’s School of Special Education, School Psychology and Early Childhood Studies, said IDA accreditation came about because of the vision and dedication demonstrated by Lane and Lombardino.

“Thanks to them, our dual certification graduates will be highly qualified to teach elementary and special education,” Crockett said. “They’ll be classroom-ready to help all children read.” 

   Source: Holly Lane, professor of special education, UF College of Education; hlane@ufl.edu
   Media Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu
   Writer: Stephen Kindland, staff writer, UF College of Education; skindland@coe.ufl.edu


School psychology program earns full accreditation renewal

The UF College of Education’s doctoral degree program in school psychology recently earned the full seven-year accreditation renewal from the commission on accreditation for the American Psychological Association.

The continued accreditation status is the longest term achievable for a Doctor of Philosophy program in school psychology and extends until 2021.

Professor John Kranzler, director of UF’s school psychology program, likens APA national accreditation to the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” for training programs in the psychology field, but also says it’s much more than that.

“Accreditation is not simply a status, it’s also a process,” he said. “Accreditation signifies that the program is committed to the practice of self-study to continuously seek ways to improve the quality of education and training.”

The process for UF’s school psychology program began more than a year ago with the submission of a 666-page self-study report, which assessed and documented virtually every aspect of the program, from training goals to financial resources to the quality of students and faculty. An APA review team of academic peers visited the College of Education campus last December and then prepared preliminary and final reports with their findings.

In its report, the accreditation team noted particular strengths in the UF program’s high quality and diversity of its students, the excellence of its practicum placements and field supervision, and the use of data-based decision-making to enhance the students’ doctoral training experience.

The College of Education’s Ed.S. and Ph.D. programs in school psychology also have long been accredited by the Florida Department of Education and approved as “nationally recognized” by the national Council for Accreditation of Education Preparation (formerly known as the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education).

“Maintaining concurrent accreditation by multiple state and national organizations is no easy task, because the criteria and standards for each are somewhat different and each requires a great deal of self-study and documentation,” Kranzler said.

   SOURCE: John Kranzler, director, school psychology program, UF College of Education, jkranzler@coe.ufl.edu;  352-273-4119
   WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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Smooth leadership transition for School of Teaching and Learning

The University of Florida College of Education’s School of Teaching and Learning, the hub of teacher preparation and K-12 educator advancement at UF, is undergoing a smooth change in leadership, with the former STL director working closely with her successor to ensure a seamless transition.

The college has hired one of its own, Ester de Jong, an associate professor of ESOL/bilingual education, to succeed Elizabeth “Buffy” Bondy, who has directed STL since 2008. Bondy stepped down May 16 after six challenging but fruitful years at the helm to return, full time, to her role as professor in the school’s curriculum, teaching and teacher education program.

“It is gratifying how Dr. Bondy and Dr. de Jong have worked together during this transition,” said Dean Glenn Good. “Ester should continue the tradition of excellence that the leadership of the School of Teaching and Learning is known for. Our faculty and their students are sure to flourish under her guidance. 

De Jong said her first priority as the new director “is to maintain the positive and collaborative culture in our school. I hope to support faculty in creative ways so they can be at the cutting edge in their areas of expertise locally, nationally and internationally.

Ester de Jong

Ester de Jong

“Together we can shape not only theoretical understandings about teaching and learning, but also policy and practice, particularly as it is unfolding for diverse learners.”

De Jong, who has an Ed.D. in literacy, language and cultural studies from Boston University, joined the UF education faculty in 2001. She is in the final year of a three-year term as the college’s B.O. Smith Research Professorship, which supports her study of teachers’ use and modeling of academic vocabulary and specific language structures into students’ oral language use.

She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in language and literature studies from Tilburg University in the Netherlands, her native country. From 1996-2001, she was the assistant bilingual director for Framingham Public Schools near Boston, and also taught as a lecturer at nearby Harvard University and Simmons College.

Her Framingham district administrator job is one of several leadership posts she has held. At UF, she has headed STL’s ESOL/bilingual academic program, served as principal investigator on several federal and foundation research grants, and chaired the college’s 2013-14 Faculty Policy Council. She also served on the board of directors for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) International Association and was a member of a Florida Department of Education review panel for the state ESOL teacher exam.

Her  research interests include language policy, bilingual education and mainstream teacher preparation for bilingual learners. Last year, de Jong received the Award for Excellence in Research on Bilingual Education from the national Association of Two-Way and Dual Language Education (ATDLE). 

She is the lead investigator on one of the college’s most ambitious research efforts called Project DELTA (Developing English Language and Literacy through Teacher Achievement). It’s a seven-year, $1.2 million undertaking funded by the U.S. Department of Education to assess and advance the teaching of English language learners in Florida’s public schools.

De Jong published a book in 2011 titled “Foundations of Multilingualism in Education: From Principles to Practice” (Caslon Publishing), which focuses on working with multilingual children in K-12 schools. She is widely published and has served in editorial posts for several peer-review journals on bilingual and language education and policy. 

WATCH THE VIDEO: Message from Ester de Jong, the new director of STL

Bondy: now is ‘right time’ for change

Elizabeth "Buffy" Bondy

Elizabeth “Buffy” Bondy

After six years as STL director, Buffy Bondy said “it just feels like the right time” to make way for a new leader.

“My title has been both STL director and professor, but I haven’t been able to contribute as much as I should on the professor side,” Bondy said. “I want to do a better job as a professor, and that is what I really love.”

Bondy received her doctorate in curriculum and instruction from UF in 1984, worked at the College of Education as a visiting or adjunct instructor for five years, and joined the curriculum and instriuction faculty as an assistant professor in 1989. In 2008, she replaced Tom Dana as STL director when Dana became the college’s associate dean for academic affairs. Working with then-Dean Catherine Emihovich and her executive team, Bondy guided STL through the lion’s share of seven consecutive years of severe cuts in state spending on higher education.

From the start, Bondy said her focus was to create conditions favorable for STL faculty members and their students to excel. She continued to nurture the caring and collegial social climate that she had come to appreciate during her years on the faculty.

“Responding to the financial crisis, we’ve had to work in new ways and find new streams of revenue,” Bondy said. “Our goal has been smart programming, brilliant research and improved service.”

It took joint efforts between the dean’s office, the STL faculty and the school’s strategic collaborations with the Lastinger Center for Learning for both the school and the college to not only survive, but thrive.

During Bondy’s tenure as director, STL became a major player in the college’s expanding distance learning enterprise. Some of the new offerings in e-learning include an online M.Ed. program in language and literacy education and online doctorates in both education technology and in curriculum, teaching and teacher education. The blended Teacher Leadership for School Improvement degree has been named the nation’s top teacher education program by the Association of Teacher Educators.

Other advances while Bondy was on watch include shifting to a yearlong internship for ProTeach students and forging a multi-pronged partnership with Nanjing Xioazhuang University in China.

Bondy also garnered funding for vital building improvements in vintage Norman Hall, designed to group faculty members with common research interests together. These include renovated space in the Education Library basement for computer labs and offices for education technology faculty, and for new offices and work stations for STEM education faculty and doctoral students. She also added new infrastructure to help faculty researchers’ efforts to secure outside funding.

Bondy, who plans to take a one-semester sabbatical in spring of 2015, said she expects faculty and students in the School of Teaching and Learning to prosper under de Jong’s leadership.

“It is time for new ideas,” Bondy said. “Ester is extremely capable and a very quick study. She’s a top scholar, has strong leadership qualities and brings tremendous energy and enthusiasm to the job.”

   SOURCE: Ester de Jong, UF College of Education, edejong@coe.ufl.edu
   SOURCE: Elizabeth “Buffy” Bondy, UF College of Education, bondy@coe.ufl.edu
   WRITER:  Larry Lansford, news and communications office, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

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Waldron named associate dean for student affairs

WALDRON, NancySchool psychology professor Nancy Waldron, a UF College of Education faculty member since 1999, has been named associate dean for student affairs at the college.

Waldron’s appointment will take effect on June 30, when she will replace longtime COE administrator Theresa Vernetson, who is retiring after 41 years at the college as a student and employee.

Waldron also is the current associate director of the School of Special Education, School Psychology and Early Childhood Studies. She previously headed the school psychology program and chaired the COE Faculty Policy Council.

Her core values and educational philosophy seem well suited for the student affairs post.

“The most rewarding aspect of my work as a faculty member has been mentoring and serving as an adviser to doctoral and specialist students,” she wrote in her letter of application. “A strong commitment to student advocacy and supporting individual needs has always guided my work with students.”

She has held several leadership positions in the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), while her research and scholarship activities have focused on the inclusion of students with disabilities, implementation of multi-tiered systems of support, and school psychology preparation.

Waldron has been a professor-in-residence at UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School for that past 10 years, working collaboratively with school leaders and colleagues in the development of a model site for school psychology services and field-based experiences for graduate students.

Her scholarship and impact on the field has been recognized through her selection as a fellow of the Division of School Psychology of the American Psychological Association (APA).   


Breast cancer doesn’t stop ed tech student from earning her doctorate

Chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgery and a regimen of pills to counteract the side effects of other prescriptions couldn’t stop Johanna “Jo” Kenney from earning her doctorate in education technology from UF while holding down a full-time job—in Texas.


Jo Kenney, center, poses before her graduation ceremony with her parents Robert and Susan Kenney, in front of the statue of Gator mascots Albert and Alberta at UF’s Emerson Alumni Hall.

When Kenney was presented with an Ed.D. degree during the UF College of Education’s commencement on April 25 at the O’Connell Center, few people knew what the past 18 months had been like for the 41-year-old distance-learning student, who had just flown to Gainesville from San Antonio for the ceremony.

Kenney said “it hit me like a ton of bricks” when she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in February of 2013 — three years into her doctoral coursework at UF.

“Time stood still,” she said. “I was in shock.”

But Kenney regrouped, and she and her doctors mapped out a treatment strategy that would allow her to keep her civilian job with the Department of Defense at Fort Sam Houston and continue working on her dissertation and coursework.  

“They told me 2013 was really going to suck, but then I’d be cured,” Kenney said.

 After the first three of eight chemotherapy sessions, Kenney successfully defended her dissertation proposal via Skype.

 A month later, she was asked to take over as interim head of the education technology department at the Medical Education and Training Campus — a joint military facility at Fort Sam Houston — when her boss of three years quit unexpectedly.

 In June, Kenney’s grueling year got more “sucky” thanks to federal budget sequestration. For 11 weeks she had to take off one day unpaid each week. The subsequent government shutdown resulted in Kenney being furloughed in October, when she was home recovering from the double mastectomy she underwent in September.   

 “And that’s the short version of all that happened,” Kenney quipped. “There were times when I wasn’t trying to take things one day at a time. I was surviving from moment to moment.”

 Through it all, she kept her eyes on the prize.

 In March of this year, Kenney summoned the strength to fly to Gainesville and  successfully defend her dissertation, titled The Future of Simulations in Allied Healthcare Education and Training: A Modified Delphi Study Identifying Their Instructional and Technical Feasibility.

Jo Kenney (center) poses with her family before UF's commencement for doctoral graduates. Pictured with her in front row are her mother, Susan Kenney, and her aunt, Carolyn Barczc; back row are her brother, Jeff Kenney, and her father Robert Kenney.

Jo Kenney (center) poses with her family before UF’s commencement for doctoral graduates. Pictured with her in front row are her mother, Susan Kenney, and her aunt, Carolyn Barczc; back row are her brother, Jeff Kenney, and her father Robert Kenney.

 “It’s very difficult to be articulate after you’ve had chemo,” she said. “My adviser and three other professors didn’t go easy on me, but they were patient. They gave me time to finish my sentences.”

 Kenney also has maintained a blog during her ordeal. Titled “Bring It On: A Journey Through Breast Cancer, Dissertation and Life,” the blog (http://whyshoulditbeeasy.blogspot.com) proved to be a source of healing. Laced with humor and a multitude of inspirational quotes from well-known people, Kenney learned from her readers that she wasn’t alone.

 “Survival is more than just putting one foot in front of the other,” she wrote on Feb. 7, 2013. “It’s laughing when you trip over your own feet. Laughter and friendship make even the worst days possible to deal with.”

 Another entry — made exactly one year later — summarizes Kenney’s future plans.

 “To face adversity and survive is wonderful,” she wrote. “But to use this journey to help others I think is the next part of the journey.”

 Kenney says she is feeling stronger every day, and that she is taking spinning classes to build up her stamina.

 “On a scale of 1-to-10, I’d give myself a 7 in terms of my overall health,” she said.  “I’ll be on a maintenance drug for 10 years, but at least I have more control over my situation. Now I can turn this into something positive.

“I’m looking for my next challenge at this point, but I’ll take my time looking for the right fit. I’d like to be a manager of instructional design, or a director of learning technologies or educational technology and innovation. Something where I can help support and improve the student experience.”

   Writer: Stephen Kindland, UF College of Education, News & Communications, 352-273-4449, skindland@coe.ufl.edu
   Media Relations: Larry Lansford, UF College of Education, News & Communications, 352-273-4449, llansford@coe.ufl.edu

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Study: Solving behavior problems early boosts preschoolers’ chances for success in learning

Maureen Conroy

Maureen Conroy

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Studies show that up to a quarter of all children entering prekindergarten classrooms today have behavior problems that can disrupt learning for them and their peers. What’s more, researchers say that many preschool teachers lack the necessary training to effectively quell this growing trend in behavior problems.

“Many preschool teachers are ill-prepared to work with these children, often impacting the child-teacher relationship and the classroom learning environment. This can lead to problems with learning and result in too many children entering kindergarten unprepared to succeed,” said Maureen Conroy, professor of special education and early childhood studies at the University of Florida College of Education and co-director of UF’s Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies.

Conroy is the principal investigator on a team of researchers from UF and Virginia Commonwealth University that is working to reverse this trend. In a study reported this month in the spring issue of the Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, the researchers teamed up to evaluate the promise of a pilot program that they designed to train teachers how to work with preschoolers who display emerging behavior problems. The program is called BEST in CLASS, short for Behavioral, Emotional and Social Training: Competent Learners Achieving School Success.

Conroy’s VCU co-authors on the report are Kevin Sutherland, Abigail Vo, Staci Carr and Paul Ogston. Their work was funded by a $1.5 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences, part of the U.S. Department of Education.

The published study involved 10 teachers and 19 high-risk children from state-funded prekindergarten classrooms and Head Start programs.

The teachers attended an introductory group workshop on the BEST in CLASS intervention strategies, and then received 14 successive weeks of individually tailored coaching and feedback on implementing effective instructional strategies for strengthening children’s social, emotional and behavioral competence. Early-childhood specialists on the research team led the professional development activities and also developed coaching and teacher-training manuals for the participants.

Conroy said their BEST in CLASS model emphasizes both individual and classwide interventions to improve interactions between the teacher and children and enhances the overall classroom atmosphere for learning.

“Teachers use classroom rules and routines with children and praise specific positive behavior. For example, some young children need to learn classroom expectations such as sitting and waiting their turn during a sharing circle or game,” she said. “The BEST in CLASS intervention helps teachers learn to use specific strategies in a more targeted way with select children. These strategies aren’t necessarily new to teachers, but we show them how to use the strategies in a more precise and intense way for given children and classroom situations.”

BEST in CLASS also has a home-school component where teachers send home a daily “behavior report card” to parents, stating in a positive manner the social, emotional and behavioral skills their child is learning that day and suggestions for parents to use at home.

“As children learn early how to positively engage with adults in their environment, they become more prepared to succeed as they enter kindergarten,” Conroy said.

The promise of their pilot study has led to a follow-up, large-scale investigation of the Best in Class intervention by the UF-VCU research team, supported by $4 million over four years from the Institute of Education Sciences. The follow-up project involves 120 prekindergarten teachers in both Florida and Virginia.

    SOURCE: Maureen Conroy, UF College of Education; mconroy@coe.ufl.edu, 352-273-4382
    WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137


Florida among 5 states partnering with new UF center to transform teaching of students with disabilities

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — School districts and special education interests in five states—Florida, California, Connecticut, Illinois and South Dakota—are partnering with a new, federally funded center at the University of Florida on an ambitious effort to transform their preparation of effective teachers and leaders serving students with disabilities.

The CEEDAR Center at UF’s College of Education is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs. “CEEDAR” stands for Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform. The center is receiving $5 million annually over the next three years, with a possible extension for two additional years, to help states strengthen their standards and methods for preparing, licensing and evaluating their teachers and school leaders.

CEEDAR leaders_0046

CEEDAR Center leaders, from left: Co-director Erica McCray, director Mary Brownell, co-director Paul Sindelar, and project manager Meg Kamman.

“This collaborative effort will allow the special education field to take a giant step in improving the education of students with disabilities,” said CEEDAR Center Director Mary Brownell, a UF professor of special education. “Our partnering states recognize this need and want to ensure that their general and special educators have the necessary skills and support to improve the achievement of students with special needs.”

The five states launching the effort are receiving what the CEEDAR team refers to as “intensive technical assistance.” Center faculty are organizing research-proven professional development and networking programs for teachers and school leaders, offering instructional support and online teaching resources, and helping the states align their teacher preparation and evaluation systems with the highest professional standards. Each year through 2017, five additional states will be selected to receive this highest level of support and instruction, eventually benefitting tens of thousands of children in 20 states.

The CEEDAR Center has created a website (http://www.ceedar.org) offering resources for any educators or groups interested in revising state licensure and certification standards, reforming teacher and leader preparation, and evaluating educator preparation programs using student data. 

The CEEDAR Center’s national partners include the American Institutes for Research, Council of Chief State School Officers, University of Kansas, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, Council for Exceptional Children, Council for the Accreditation for Educator Preparation, National Association of State Directors of Special Education, and TASH.

“Providing students with disabilities with effective, research-based instruction is the best way to ensure they achieve college and career readiness—a goal we have for all students. We are looking forward to being able to contribute to this agenda with our intensive and targeted technical-assistance partners,” Brownell said.

SOURCE: Mary Brownell, UF professor of special education & CEEDAR Center director; mbrownell@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4261
WRITER: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 
llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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UF education researchers out in force at massive AERA meeting

(Click here for PDF listing of UFCOE presentations)

AERA 2014 banner

For years, the massive annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association has been a hotbed of the latest research and new ideas about teaching-and-learning practices and policies. This year, nearly 70 UF College of Education faculty and advanced-degree students were among the 14,000 international scholars who  converged on Philadelphia April 3-7 for the 2014 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association to examine critical issues of education research and public policy.

More UF education faculty and students, from multiple disciplines, attend AERA’s massive annual meeting than any other professional gathering. The UF contingent included 31 faculty members and 37 graduate and postdoctoral students in education.

This year’s conference theme was “The Power of Education Research for Innovation in Practice and Policy.” UF presentations included pertinent topics such as:

— Ambitious teaching within standards-based settings: Lost in the translation?

— The influence of family-school involvement on children’s social, emotional and academic development

— Preservice teachers’ personality traits and creative behaviors as predictors of their support for children’s creativity

— Social networks’ influence on first-generation Latino students’ college selection and enrollment

— The role of practitioner research in preparing the next generation of teacher educators

— Black doctoral student perspective on their persistence in a research-intensive education college

— Success in teacher learning through an online coaching course

— School improvement for early childhood teachers

The busiest COE faculty attendees were Walter Leite (research and evaluation methodology) with six presentations, and Anne Huggins (REM) and Nancy Dana (teacher education) with four each. Five other faculty members and three graduate students were involved in three presentations each.

Writer: Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education | 352-273-4137 | llansford@coe.ufl.edu 


Lastinger Center wins Gates Foundation grant to build Algebra Nation teacher-development network

GAINESVILLE, Fla.—The University of Florida Lastinger Center for Learning has received a $250,000 Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant to build a teacher-development network as part of its highly successful e-learning resource, Algebra Nation.

A virtual home for teachers, the Algebra Nation Teacher-Development Network will allow them to collaboratively enhance their grasp and use of the latest state standards, as well as their leadership skills.

“We’re thrilled to create an interactive, robust area in Algebra Nation dedicated to teachers,” said Don Pemberton, who directs the UF Lastinger Center.

Built by the UF Lastinger Center in partnership with Gainesville-based education technology firm Study Edge, Algebra Nation is a free, 24/7 online resource aligned with the latest state standards that prepares Florida middle- and high-school students for the high-stakes End-of-Course exam. Launched last year, the program has exceeded all expectations. About 250,000 students and nearly 4,000 teachers in all 67 Florida school districts are active in this e-learning system. The Florida Legislature has invested $2 million in the program.

With the Gates Foundation’s support, the UF Lastinger Center is expanding and enhancing its Algebra Nation professional development.

The Algebra Nation Teacher-Development Network will use an interactive wall where teachers can share their best practices. Teachers will also have access to a wealth of materials and information to help them stay on top of the curriculum change.

“We want teachers to share their own strategies,” said Joy Schackow, UF STEM professor-in-residence in Pinellas County and Algebra Nation’s math expert. “But we will also be providing resources for them.”

The Algebra Nation teacher-development network will feature:

  • Videos of classroom instruction that illustrate mathematical practices.
  • Sophisticated, searchable discussion forums.
  • Lesson plans and classroom materials.
  • Guides to help spur discussions and monitor to the site for the accuracy.

Founded in 1994, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest private foundation in the world. 

Part of the UF College of Education, the Lastinger Center is an educational innovation incubator. It harnesses the university’s intellectual resources to design, build, field-test and scale models that advance teaching, learning and healthy child development. The center continuously evaluates and refines its work, widely disseminates its findings and roots its initiatives in a growing network of partner sites around the state and country.


Contact: Boaz Dvir  |  352-273-0289  |  bdvir@coe.ufl.edu

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College jumps 9 spots in national rankings; rates highest in state

The University of Florida College of Education improved nine spots to No. 21 among public education colleges in the 2015 U.S. News and World Report rankings of America’s Best Graduate Schools. The UF college was rated 30th overall, 10 spots higher than last year.Ranking_Badges_White_COE_Number

U.S. News also rated two College of Education academic programs—special education and counselor education—among the nation’s top five in their respective specialty areas. Both ranked fifth in their disciplines, with special education moving up one spot from No. 6 last year, and counselor education improving three positions from No. 8.

Two other UF education specialties gained top 20 ratings: in elementary teacher education (up two spots to 16th), and curriculum and instruction (holding steady at 18th).

“Seeing this rise in the rankings is a testament to the intellectual leadership of our faculty, the enthusiasm of our students, and our ambitious research agenda that addresses the most critical needs in education and our global society,” said UF education Dean Glenn Good. “The real payoff is our impact within the broader community as evidenced by the high quality of our graduates, the engagement of our school and district partners, and the accomplishments of our alumni.”

The University of Florida remains Florida’s highest ranked education school. Florida State runs second with a national rank of 39th, followed by the University of Miami at No. 51. UF’s college also is the highest ranked public education school in the Southeastern Conference.

The UF College of Education showed significant improvements in several of the quality measures assessed in the rankings, including the two measures for faculty research activity (averaged over the past two fiscal years)—total research expenditures ($21.9 million, more than $4 million than the previous two-year average) and research expenditures per faculty member ($336,500, a 34 percent increase)

“Our faculty have increased external research funding every year over the past six years, reaching our highest level ever in 2013,” Good said.

According to the U.S. News rankings, the College of Education also improved its scores in doctoral student selectivity with an applicant acceptance rate of 34 percent, and in the ratio of full-time doctoral students to full-time faculty members (4.3 to 1).

Assessment by peers (deans and deans of graduate studies at U.S. education colleges) stood pat with a rating of 3.6 on a scale of 5.  Mean GRE scores of doctoral students entering in fall 2013 varied slightly from 2012, with verbal scores dropping two points to 153 and quantitative scores averaging seven points higher at 154.

The college’s overall score of 61—with the top-ranked college scoring 100—was a two-point improvement over last year.

The complete U.S. News Best Graduate Schools rankings data are available online at: http://www.usnews.com/education

   SOURCE: Tom Dana, assistant dean of academic affairs, UF College of Education, tdana@coe.ufl.edu, 352-273-4134
   WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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Broadway pros work behind the scenes for P.K. Yonge’s production of ‘Anything Goes’

Michael Cundari (above) leads rehearsals for the upcoming Anything Goes performance at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School

Administrators at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School may not have known it, but they got more than one person when they hired Michael Cundari to take over the school’s performing arts program last year.

Cundari, a Nutley, N.J., native whose list of performances as a high school music director could double as an international travel brochure, has tapped into a network of friends and colleagues on and off Broadway to provide enhanced instruction and set design for his first production at the Gainesville school.

Eight performances of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes have been scheduled for the P.K. Yonge Performing Arts Center, beginning at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 14. Complete schedule and ticket information can be found online at http://pkyonge.ufl.edu/modules/cms/pages.phtml?pageid=170295&SID.

Anything Goes is a fast-paced musical that combines the classic show tunes “Anything Goes” and “I Get a Kick Out of You” with tap dancing, cheesy jokes, a love triangle and a bit of blackmail.

The action takes place aboard the SS American, an ocean liner en route from New York to England. Onboard is nightclub singer and evangelist Reno Sweeney and her stowaway friend, Billy Crocker, who is in pursuit of Hope Harcourt, the love of his life who happens to be engaged to the wealthy Lord Evelyn Oakleigh.

Adding to the mix are Moonface Martin, aka Public Enemy No. 13, and Erma, his sidekick-in-crime. Using disguises, tap-dancing sailors and trickery, Reno and Martin scheme to help Billy in his quest to win Hope’s heart.

Cundari knew he had his work cut out when he chose the two-act play as his debut production.

“It’s definitely a challenge because of the constant movement, the delicate timing and the intricate dance numbers,” he said. “But I’m most concerned with the educational process of discovering a musical and all of the educational and life-serving attributes involved.

“It’s not just to put on a show,” Cundari added. “It’s to teach technique, time management and interpersonal skills – and to embrace culture and just teach students how to be better people.”

So far it’s mission accomplished, based on reports offered by Cundari’s colleagues, all of whom traveled from New York to help prepare the 50-member cast.

“Most of the kids had never worn tap shoes, but they caught on quickly,” said Elliott Bradley, a dance instructor who Cundari met through a mutual friend.

Bradley, who spent four seasons performing with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall during the famed dance troupe’s annual Christmas special, says he has been impressed with virtually every cast member’s ability to catch on quickly.

“They learned all the basics in three days when I was down here in September,” Bradley said. “And they retained what they learned when I came back in January.

“I can tell you this,” he added with a wry smile. “There are no shy kids onstage. They’re all doing really, really well.”

Justin Gomlak, who Cundari also met through a mutual friend, has been equally impressed.

“It’s a pleasure working with students who are so open to guidance,” said Gomlak, a Broadway actor and drama teacher at The Dalton School in New York City. “They absorb every bit of the guidance I offer.”

Cundari says he also is grateful to the dozen volunteers who showed up to build an elaborate stage setting under the direction of James Gardner, a professional set designer who also came down from New York. Gardner is the father of two of Cundari’s former students.

Cundari served as director of secondary choral activities, director of the Academy of Fine and Performing Arts and music coordinator for the Nutley public school system before coming to P.K. Yonge. His ensembles participated in three command performances for New Jersey governors, and received numerous invitations, including a Palm Sunday performance at the National Basilica in Washington D.C., and a concert aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in Pearl Harbor, Hi.

Cundari also conducted high school choral group performances at Carnegie Hall and at prestigious venues throughout England, Italy and Austria. 

“After 15 years of heading so many successful programs in New Jersey, I just needed a change,” he said of his decision to relocate. “I’m looking forward to using what I’ve learned and experienced to create some fine performances and wonderful memories here in Gainesville.”

Anything Goes38   Anything Goes74  Anything Goes81                               Anything Goes101


Professor’s book – ‘Fairy Tales with a Black Consciousness’ – favors multicultural touch

Once upon a time, a young black girl with long, curled hair lived at the top of an isolated tower with an enchantress. 

Her name was Sugar Cane. 


This Caribbean re-telling of the classic “Rapunzel” fairy tale is just one story featured in “Fairy Tales with a Black Consciousness,” a new book of essays edited by University of Florida professor Ruth McKoy Lowery and her colleagues Vivian Yenika-Agbaw and Laretta Henderson. 

Lowery is an associate professor of children’s literacy at UF’s College of Education. Her studies specialize in how immigrants, especially those from the Caribbean and West Indies, are represented in children’s literature. 

Lowery, Yenika-Agbaw and Henderson are all university professors and members of the National Council of Teachers of English and the U.S. Board on Books for Young People. Yenkia-Abgaw teaches at Pennsylvania State University and Henderson at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 

“We each teach multicultural literature courses, and we always found it difficult to find stories from a black perspective that we could share with our students,” Lowery said. “We discovered that there was a need for more research about how cultures within the African diaspora were reflected in children’s literature.” 

Lowery BOOK cover

The essays in “Fairy Tales with a Black Consciousness” analyze familiar children’s stories from the African and African diaspora perspectives. The African diaspora refers to the communities around the world that descend from the historic movement of people from Africa. The book also introduces unique folktales and traditions rooted in the black cultures of Africa, the Caribbean, the West Indies, Latin America, and the United States. For example, the book covers the stories of Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood in Africa, a female West Indian version of Rumpelstiltskin, and the Pied Piper of the Harlem Renaissance.    

Lowery said she hopes children’s literature students, teachers in the K-20 field (kindergarten through graduate school), and librarians use the new book to find ways to share these diverse stories with children. 

“We hear of fairy tales so many times yet we don’t realize that these stories go way back and that there are versions of these stories across every culture,” Lowery said. “You’ll hear about the Disney version of stories, but you don’t hear of others. One of our goals is exposing children and others to these multicultural stories that aren’t readily available in the mainstream culture.” 

Prices for “Fairy Tales with a Black Consciousness” start at $38. The book can be purchased at the publisher’s website, mcfarlandpub.com, Amazon.com and other online bookstores.

SOURCE: Ruth Lowery, associate professor, UF College of Education; rlowery@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-9193
WRITER: Alexa Lopez, news and communications, UF College of Education
MEDIA RELATIONS: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education, llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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Act of kindness from UF president’s wife—a half-century ago—spurs couple’s scholarship gift

It was a simple act of kindness by the University of Florida president’s wife in 1956 that helped persuade Jess and Sharon Elliott of Amelia Island to “pay it back” more than a half-century later with a donation creating a student scholarship at UF’s College of Education.
Jess was a freshman living in the Talbot Hall dormitory when Frances Huston Millikan Reitz, the wife of then-President J. Wayne Reitz, visited while he was sick in bed in the UF student infirmary.
“Mrs. Reitz sent my mother a note letting her know I was all right and not to worry,” Jess Elliott said. “That really pleased my parents, and Sharon and I both appreciate the interest that the University of Florida showed in us and the opportunities the university provided for us.”
The couple has expressed their gratitude with a $30,000 gift, creating an scholarship in their name to help undergraduate or graduate students cover the cost of working toward their education degrees.
Jess Elliott, born and raised in Pahokee, Fla., received three degrees from the College of Education—a B.A.E. degree in 1962, his M.Ed. a year later (concentrating in modern European history), and a doctorate (Ed.D.) in 1970 specializing in educational psychology with a research focus.  He says he was the first graduate of the research program in that specialty.
Elliott singles out two College of Education professors—Wilson Guertin and Douglas Scates—“who were instrumental in building my coherent approach to evaluating school effectiveness.”
Sharon Elliott was born in Tampa, spent two years living in UF’s Flavet (Florida Veterans) Villages while her father pursued his second UF degree), and spent the rest of her childhood in Thomasville, Ga. She attended UF for two years and later received her bachelor’s degree in from Agnes Scott College. She managed a travel agency in Atlanta for many years before she retired.
The Elliotts have one grandson son, Micah Mathis, who is a senior in electrical engineering at UF. Jess and Sharon both have many relatives who also graduated from UF.
The Elliotts moved to Amelia Island in 2013 after spending most of their adult years in Atlanta, where Jess worked as an administrator  for the Georgia Department of Education, using his statistics expertise to help evaluate the state’s student-testing and school and teacher accountability programs. He retired in 1995 and worked as an education research consultant until closing the books on his business last fall.
“Jess and Sharon Elliott may describe their gift as payback to the University of Florida, but they are really paying it forward by helping future students of our college realize their dreams of becoming educators,” said UF education dean Glenn Good. “New scholarship donations like the Elliotts’ are gifts that keeps on giving, year after year.”

MEDIA CONTACT / WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education;



UF institute rethinks its strategic role in transforming higher education

With myriad underlying forces driving rapid change in higher education—more online courses and degrees, community colleges offering four-year baccalaureate degrees, declining funding, the looming shortage of qualified administrators, and student loan outrage, to name a few—the traditionally trend-setting Institute of Higher Education (IHE) at UF’s College of Education is rethinking how it can best meet the needs of higher education and its leaders.

IHE poster (2014)“Higher education is sailing into the perfect storm—a tsunami of changes in so many areas at once that institutions must prepare and plan for,” said IHE director Dale Campbell, a professor and head of UF’s higher education administration program. “For our institute to make effective, lasting change in today’s rapidly changing world, we first must look at ourselves and determine the best approaches and actions we can take in shaping the brightest future possible for higher education.”

Campbell and other college and institute officials have launched a sweeping strategic planning process that, starting last June, has included focus groups and brainstorming sessions involving more than two dozen IHE alumni, graduate students and state and national leaders in higher education administration. The sessions were facilitated by Willis Holcombe, a University of Florida IHE alumnus, former chancellor of Florida’s community college system, president emeritus of Broward College and recently retired as interim president of Florida State College in Jacksonville.

The process culminated last week in Orlando, at a UF alumni gathering at the annual meeting of the national Community College Futures Assembly, where Campbell unveiled the resulting strategic plan outlining the IHE’s “re-energized” mission and vision.

Campbell said the IHE’s strategic planning process yielded four major goals:

GOAL 1: Strengthen higher education worldwide by developing the next generation of well-prepared, forward-thinking higher education leaders, by providing the educational experiences, learning and research environment and grounding in strategic change management to develop effective leaders and policymakers.

GOAL 2: Secure alliances with the Florida state college system, higher education leaders, alumni and state and national organizations to foster research-based policies and practices that enhance student learning and success—strengthening UF’s role as a national leader.;

GOAL 3: Position UF’s Institute of Higher Education as the premier thought leader in the state and nation on public policy in higher education;

GOAL 4: Serve as an independent research arm to the Florida college system, state government and national policy groups, addressing critical issues in higher education policy and practice.


Dale Campbell

“We will build upon our past success with a goal to become the premier graduate program in higher education administration in the nation,” Campbell said.

UF’s Higher Education Administration program has been a national force in graduate education since the mid-1950s, when the Florida Board of Control sought out UF education professor James Wattenbarger to steer the development of a state plan for community colleges.  Wattenbarger guided the state community college system from 1957 to 1967 before returning to UF to become the founding director of the College of Education’s new Institute of Higher Education.

Since then, through the institute, UF higher education scholars have continued to provide mentoring, networking and professional development opportunities for higher education practitioners and leaders, with special emphasis on Florida community and state colleges, and on increasing college access for underrepresented groups.

The IHE has sponsored the annual Community College Futures Assembly in Orlando since 1995, with the group serving as a national independent policy think tank in tackling the most critical issues facing American community colleges. Last week’s meeting in Orlando marked the group’s 20th anniversary of its founding. The Futures Assembly also presents its nationally recognized Bellwether Awards at its annual meeting highlighting the “best trend-setting practices” among CCFA institutions.

The IHE’s new strategic plan lists several key objectives for both the short and long terms.

Short-term objectives, to be implemented over the next two years, include:

— Co-sponsor the International Conference on College Teaching and Learning set for this March;

— Develop a community college master’s degree in student affairs administration;

— Create applied research centers in Florida’s state colleges in the following areas—teaching and learning and advising; workforce development and economic development strategies; and public policy analysis, strategic management, resource development and financial management;

— Appoint IHE liaison to attend meetings of the Florida College System Council of Presidents and engage with appropriate representative on topics of mutual interest;

— And, additional strategies concerning IHE curriculum revision, internships for IHE graduate students, broader public relations initiatives, and strategies for developing revenue streams for institute sustainability.

Long-term strategies, for implementation over the next five years, include:

— Develop additional stackable credentials within the College of Education to create a new market for expansion and provide a career ladder into the IHE’s graduate programs.

— Secure external funding for endowed chairs in leadership development and in teaching and learning;

— Analyze current markets and trends and changing demographics to ensure program responsiveness and leadership;

“This strategic framework represents a first step in the strategic positioning of the Institute of Higher Education,” said College of Education Dean Glenn Good. “The institute leadership team and I will work with our faculty and staff to consider the plan’s potential impact on their school and modify the plan as needed.”

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The College of Education and its Institute of Higher Education would like to thank the following faculty, alumni, colleagues and friends for their help in the development and drafting of the institute’s strategic plan:

Willis Holcombe ---Committee Chair

Willis Holcombe
—Committee Chair

IHE Strategic Planning Committee
— Glenn Good, dean, UF College of Education
— Willis Holcombe (committee chair), past interim president of Florida State College at Jacksonville
— Dale Campbell, professor and director of IHE and the FUTURES Bellwether College Consortium– Pedro Villarreal III, clinical assistant professor, HEA, UF College of Education
— Barbara Keener, chair of UF HEA Alumni Network, and core graduate faculty member in Leadership in Higher Education/Enrollment Management at the School of Education, Capella University
— Judith Bilsky, VP and provost, Florida State College at Jacksonville
— Kathryn Birmingham, CEO and principal, The Research Group
— Tina O’Daniels, associate director, IHE
— Maria Gutierrez Martin, senior director of development, UF College of Education

Focus group participants
Polly Binns, executive director, Council for Resource Development
— Michael Brawer, CEO, Association of Florida Colleges
— Noah Brown, president and CEO, Association of Community College Trustees
— Walter Bumphus, president and CEO, American Association of Community Colleges
— Conferlete Carney, provost, St. Petersburg College
— Dennis Gallon, president, Palm Beach State College
— Carl Hite, president, Cleveland State Community College, Tenn.
— Kathy Johnson, president, Pasco-Hernando Community College
— Ed Massey, president of Indian River State College
— Kristy Presswood, associate vice president, Daytona State College
— Brian Polding, campus college chair of the School of Business, University of Phoenix (Fla.
— Angel Rodriquez, professor, Broward College
— Debra Volzer, executive director, Pearson Learning Solutions
— Kirk White, president, National Council for Continuing Education and Training
— Josh Wyner, executive director of the college excellence program, Aspen Institute

UF higher education administration students
— Uttam Gaulee, PhD fellow
— Xiadan Hu, PhD fellow
— Makaya McKnight, EdD student
— Timothy Wilson, PhD fellow



   SOURCE: Dale Campbell, director, UF Institute of Higher Education, and professor of higher education administration, UF College of Education; dfc@coe.ufl.edu, 352-273-4300

   WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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Diverse practitioners headline Education Career Night Feb. 20

Four College of Education alumni – three of whom earned their doctorates at UF — will offer career advice that extends well beyond teaching during the college’s annual Education Career Night scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 20 in Norman Hall.

 The event is set for 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in room 250 at Norman Hall and is open to all.

Clockwise, from top left: Drexler, Hite, Mullin and Kicklighter

Clockwise, from top left: Drexler, Hite, Mullin and Kicklighter

This year’s four-member panel will share wisdom they each have gathered along four distinctly different career paths. Panel members include Wendy Drexler, chief innovation officer for the International Society for Technology in Education; Carl Hite, who recently retired as president of Cleveland State Community College; Melissa Kicklighter, vice president of the Florida PTA; and Christopher Mullin, assistant vice chancellor for policy and research for the Board of Governors of the State University System of Florida. 

Drexler, who received her doctorate in curriculum and instruction in 2010, is a former director of online development at Brown University who led the design and production of Brown’s first online courses. She has been a champion for effective integration of technology in K-12, higher education and corporate settings. 

Drexler also managed the research portion of the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) federal Title II grant across 23 Florida school districts, as well as eLearning design teams at IBM and AT&T. She has taught at the elementary, middle and high school levels, as well as undergraduate and graduate students at the collegiate level.

Hite received his Ph.D. in educational leadership in 1975, and served as the campus vice president and provost of Hillsborough Community College’s Tampa and Brandon campuses. He served as chairman of the National Alliance of Community and Technical Colleges, and currently serves as vice chair on the executive council of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. He recently was awarded UF’s Institute of Higher Education Outstanding Graduate award in recognition for his accomplishments in his profession, college and community.
Kicklighter earned an E.D.S. in Student Personnel in Higher Education in 1996, and is the Florida PTA vice president for regions and councils, as well as a wellness manager for Duval County (Fla.) Public Schools. She also is a civic/parent leader and advocate who serves on various committees and task forces related to child welfare, family engagement, and community advocacy. Kicklighter has worked in a variety of K-20, corporate and community education, training and advising roles and has been honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change.”

Mullin joined the Florida SUS Board of Governors staff last August as the program director for policy analysis at the American Association of Community Colleges in Washington, D.C. As a UF doctoral student, he helped launch and edit the Florida Journal of Educational Administration and Policy, published by the College of Education’s higher education administration unit. He received his bachelor’s in art education and a Ph.D. in higher education administration from UF, along with a master’s in education from Columbia University.

For more information, click here: https://education.ufl.edu/alumni/career-night/

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7-year study aims to boost teaching of state’s English language learners

After $1 million, six years, and data from more than 24,000 elementary school teachers and 72,000 students, three University of Florida education researchers are close to completing a project that could transform the way teachers-in-training prepare to teach Florida schoolchildren whose primary language is not English. 


Bilingual education professor Maria Coady (left) and UF video production specialist Emily O’Hearn edit case study videos for the new ESOL-infused curriculum that was developed as a result of Project DELTA’s findings. (Photos courtesy of UF College of Journalism and Communications)

In 2007, the U.S. Department of Education awarded almost $1.2 million to UF bilingual education professors Maria Coady, Ester de Jong and Candace Harper for Project DELTA, which stands for Developing English Language and Literacy through Teacher Achievement. Since then, the researchers have been assessing the effects that graduates from UF’s elementary teacher preparation program, called ProTeach, are having on their second language learners.

Now, they are using their findings to ensure that Florida’s future teachers are adequately prepared to teach the state’s growing population of ESOL (English to speakers of other languages) students. The study will run through June 2014.

The researchers will travel to Washington, D.C. to present their research Jan. 29 to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition, which funded the project. 

The researchers are comparing the academic performance of elementary school second-language students taught by College of Education graduates with that of ESOL students taught by non-UF teachers. By analyzing these numbers, as well as data from surveys and participating teacher-graduates, the team discovered that teachers prepared through ProTeach have a positive effect on the reading and mathematics achievement of the English language learners in their mainstream classrooms. 

The College of Education’s elementary teacher prep program lasts five years, and its graduates earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree plus an ESOL endorsement by the state of Florida. The ProTeach curriculum infuses second language learning and teaching theory into their general education classes such as reading and science instruction. 

“Florida has had the requirement for ESOL endorsement for initial teacher preparation in place since 2001, yet there is little research on what ESOL infusion is or what impact it has on learning,” said de Jong, the project’s principal investigator “Our study aims to fill this gap.” 

Project Delta 1

The Project DELTA team is composed of (from left to right) Candace Harper, Ester de Jong and Maria Coady, bilingual education professors at UF’s College of Education.

Despite the positive implications of the data, the surveys and case studies revealed that, although UF graduates feel confident about using visuals for their second-language students and ensuring that all students feel comfortable in the classroom, they are still wary of teaching language-specific instruction, which involves explicit lessons on grammar and other fundamental language principles. 

“Most of our students are monolingual and many haven’t had the experience of learning a second language beyond their high school foreign language classes, so showing them how language plays a role in the classroom can be challenging,” de Jong said. 

With this new information, the research team seeks to transform the College of Education’s ESOL curriculum so elementary teacher-candidates will have more in-class opportunities to practice second language teaching strategies. 

The revised curriculum also shows education students how teaching materials in mainstream subject areas can be modified for English learners. According to de Jong, the traditional curriculum focused more on ESOL-specific materials, but this new change will help teachers-in-training “think about taking the mainstream content they will be teaching and making adaptations accordingly.” 

“Because they are mainstream teachers, they have to contend with mainstream materials, but through this ESOL infusion model, we give them real tools to be critical of those materials and make sound decisions for second language learners,” de Jong said. 


As part of Project Delta, the researchers produced a video featuring Kim Cook pictured on computer monitor), who was selected as a model teacher for the ESOL case study videos.

Co-researcher Maria Coady is producing two case study videos for the new curriculum. The videos feature UF alumnae Kim Cook and Sasha Abreu as model teachers, chosen for their “exemplary teaching of English language learning students,” Coady said. The videos showcase examples of grouping strategies, literacy instruction, ESOL strategies, communication with parents of English learners, and the use of multicultural literature in mainstream elementary classrooms. 

De Jong said they plan on showing the videos to UF elementary education students and also offering them online as instructional resources. 

“We hope these videos and the accompanying guide will be useful for teacher-educators across the state and nation,” Coady said. “We also believe they are useful products to guide state and national policies on teacher education and English language teaching and learning.” 

In the project’s final year, the researchers are poised to test and evaluate their ESOL infusion model within UF’s elementary education program by observing and tracking the influence of the experimental curriculum on teacher effectiveness and student achievement and acquiring feedback from the course instructors. 

“Improving teacher preparation for English language learners is important, as the number of bilingual students who are placed in mainstream classrooms continues to increase,” de Jong said. “Developments such as Common Core Standards make it even more imperative that teachers understand their ESOL students and develop the knowledge and skills to ensure equal access to a high-quality curriculum for these students.”

SOURCE: Ester de Jong, associate professor of bilingual education, edejong@coe.ufl.edu, 352-273-4227
WRITER: Alexa Lopez, news and communications office, UF College of Education
MEDIA CONTACT: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications office, UF College of Education, llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137


UF partners with Chinese university on teacher ed initiative

Each year starting this fall, up to 15 undergraduate education students from a major Chinese university will spend their fourth year of teacher-preparation studies at the University of Florida College of Education, thanks to a partnership forged this week between the two schools.

Pictured at Tuesday's agreement signing ceremony in Norman Hall are: (seated) Dr. Weizhou Liu, VP, NXU, and UF COE dean Dr. Glenn Good; (standing from left) Dr. Juan "Angela" Zhao of International Exchange Office, Dr. Huying Cao, executive dean of NXU School of Teacher Education; UF COE associate dean Dr. Tom Dana, and UF International Center executive director Susanne HIll.

Pictured at Tuesday’s agreement signing ceremony in Norman Hall are: (seated) Dr. Weizhou Liu, VP, NXU, and UF COE dean Dr. Glenn Good; (standing from left) Dr. Juan “Angela” Zhao of International Exchange Office, Dr. Huying Cao, executive dean of NXU School of Teacher Education; UF COE associate dean Dr. Tom Dana, and UF International Center executive director Susanne HIll.

Upon completing their yearlong studies at UF, the Chinese teachers-in-training will return to Nanjing Xiaozhuang University, or NXU, in the East China region to complete their coursework and receive their undergraduate degree. Graduates who qualify may then apply for admission into a master’s degree program at UF’s College of Education.  

Officials with UF and NXU signed the five-year agreement at UF’s Norman Hall to seal the international education outreach pact. They will review the agreement in 2019 for possible renewal for another five years.

NXU is located in one of China’s most important cities: Nanjing is the capital city and the second largest commercial center in Jiangsu Province and has been the capital of at least six dynasties in ancient Chinese history. The university was founded in 1927 and has more than 15,000 full-time students.

 “This partnership provides an excellent opportunity for students and faculty from both UF and Nanjing to interact and learn from one another. It will provide valuable opportunities for our students and faculty to expand their multicultural skills and competences,” said Glenn Good, dean of UF’s College of Education.

Good said the College of Education will provide a faculty program director and an academic adviser for the visiting Chinese students, and the UF International Center will also extend a helping hand.

Good said the Nanjing student enrollees must meet all UF admission standards. As part of the student selection process, College of Education representatives and advisers will interview prospective students from Nanjing using Skype or similar video-conferencing technology provided by NXU.

UF education professor Danling Fu, left, served as interpreter at the agreement signing ceremony.

UF education professor Danling Fu, left, facilitated the UF-Nanjing relationship and served as interpreter at the agreement signing ceremony.

UF and NXU have carried on an informal relationship since 2011. UF education professor Danling Fu played matchmaker and facilitated the connection. Fu grew up in the People’s Republic of China and attended Nanjing University before immigrating as an adult to the United State in the mid-1980s.

The education colleges at the two universities—and their respective kindergarten-through-high school laboratory schools (including P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School at UF)—have each sent visiting contingents of faculty and students to the other’s campus for academic and cultural exchanges and sharing.

Fu served as interpreter in this week’s agreement signing that sealed the formal alliance.

“ I am very excited to see this partnership established between our two universities. I can serve as a bridge or an ambassador for the two countries, both of which I see as my home countries.” Fu said.

   SOURCE: Dean Glenn Good, UF College of Education; ggood@coe.ufl.edu, 352-273-4135
   WRITER: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137


Education pundit Diane Ravitch to hold Norman Hall ‘chat’ during UF appearance Jan. 22

Education historian Diane Ravitch, a best-selling author, scholar and outspoken thought leader of  American education trends and policies, will stop by Norman Hall on Jan. 22 for an informal, hour-long conversation with UF College of Education students, faculty and staff. 

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch

The “Conversation and Q&A with Diane Ravitch” will start at 3 p.m. in Room 250. Limited seating (along with complimentary pizza) is available on a first-come-first-served basis. Sevan Terzian, associate professor of social foundations of education, will moderate the chat. 

Ravitch, a research professor at New York University and a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush, will give a public lecture on campus that evening, from 7-9 p.m., in University Auditorium. Admission is free but tickets are required (by State Fire Marshal) and available at the door and at Ravitch’s afternoon appearance at Norman Hall.

The College of Education and the UF Honors Program are primary sponsors of Ravitch’s evening lecture and the university’s Bob Graham Center for Public Service is a co-sponsor.

Ravitch is the author of more than a dozen books about education, including the recent bestseller “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.” She also wrote “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education” (2010).  Her lectures on democracy and civic education have been translated into many languages.

As Assistant Education Secretary, she led the federal effort to promote the creation of voluntary state and national academic standards. She previously served on the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the national Assessment of Education Progress, the federal testing program. The National Education Association in 2010 selected Ravitch as its “Friend of Education.”

Ravitch, a Houston native, has a bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College and a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University. She blogs at www.dianeravitch.net.  

Her complete biography is available on her website at: http://dianeravitch.com/.

   SOURCE: Jodi Mount, UF College of Education, jmount@coe.ufl.edu, 352-273-4142
   WRITER/MEDIA CONTACT: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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Study reveals ‘digital divide’ among state’s middle schoolers

 GAINESVILLE, Fla.—A new achievement gap is developing among Florida middle-school students based on their access to technology and whether they understand how to use it, according to University of Florida education researchers. 

They say this “digital divide” is rooted in how students’ socioeconomic status, gender and ethnic background affect their computer savvy. 

Albert Ritzhaupt

Albert Ritzhaupt

UF education technology researchers Albert Ritzhaupt and Kara Dawson, and colleagues from the American Institutes for Research and the University of South Florida, investigated the growing digital divide among almost 6,000 middle school students from 13 school districts in the state. Their findings were reported recently in the Journal of Research on Technology in Education. 

The researchers evaluated the students’ computer skills and also found that their interaction with technology “wasn’t all that equitable.” 

“Students and professionals have to increasingly operate in a digital world,” said Ritzhaupt, co-principal investigator and lead author of the research report. “This body of knowledge and skill has touched virtually every sector of the economy, and we have a responsibility in public education to prepare students to enter this workforce.” 

Kara Dawson

Kara Dawson

To identify potential discrepancies among the students, the researchers determined three characteristics that could form a digital divide: access to technology and the Internet in their schools, how and how often they used the technology in the classroom, and their computer skill levels.

The researchers then administered a performance-based exam in a simulated software environment. Some questions asked students to search the Internet for relevant information, requiring knowledge of what search terms to use, how to discriminate between credible and relevant findings, and how to apply this information to their assignments. The skills tested are based on the 2008 National Educational Technology Standards for Students. 

The study revealed that students with lower socioeconomic backgrounds performed poorer than the more affluent students. Non-white students also scored lower. However, females outperformed males, which Ritzhaupt said is inconsistent with previous findings. 

“The problem is that one of the things the state is pushing is digital learning and computer-based state testing, and our schools aren’t ready for this,” Ritzhaupt said. “Students need more technical support, more training and more resources.” 

Ritzhaupt said it will take more than money to narrow this technology divide. He said schools can build relationships with community partners to get resources, provide professional development to teachers, and support students in raising their technology acumen. 

Schools can transform into community centers to share knowledge and access to others in the community, he said, and district administrators can provide incentives to teachers who integrate meaningful digital lessons into their classrooms and schools. 

“There are many things that can be done, but we have to first acknowledge that a serious problem exists,” Ritzhaupt said.

SOURCE: Albert Ritzhaupt, associate professor, education technology, UF College of Education, 352-273-4180
WRITER: Alexa Lopez, news and communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4449
MEDIA CONTACT: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137


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ESOL ed alumnus named ‘Top 40 Innovator’ in digital education

College of education alumnus James May uses classroom technology to teach his ESOL students at Valencia College. Photo by Don Burlinson, Valencia College

UF College of Education alumnus and professor James May, second from left, uses classroom technology to teach his ESOL students at Valencia College. (Photo by Don Burlinson, Valencia College)

James May, a “double EduGator” with two advanced degrees from UF’s College of Education, was named one of this year’s Top 40 Innovators in Education by the national Center for Digital Education. 

The center is a national research and advisory institute specializing in K-12 and higher education technology trends, policy and funding. 

May earned his bachelor’s degree in Spanish literature in 1993, his Master of Education in ESOL curriculum and instruction in 1999, and his doctorate in teaching and learning in 2007, all from the University of Florida. 

He currently is a professor of English as a second language at Valencia College in Orlando, where he has pioneered the use of cell phones and computer-assisted learning in his classes. He is also the faculty fellow for innovation and technology at the college. 

“We live in a world where just about everything that is known can be found by way of a quick Google or YouTube search,” May said. “Teachers who aren’t willing to embrace this digital reality are robbing future generations of what we could know tomorrow. Learning has become on-demand or just-in-time and our teaching methods should to adapt to this truth.” 

For May, there is no one technology that serves as “the solution.” Instead, technologies like smart phones, Google Goggles, QR codes and Evernote (a note-taking and archiving app) provide him and his students with more efficient and engaging strategies that can be used to identify solutions to authentic problems. 

“This technology allows me to model life-long learning strategies that students can use long after they have forgotten about me,” May said. 

For example, May teaches his students how to use Google Chrome to perform voice, image and text searches and how Google Drive could be used for collaborating learning and writing. 

“Professor May’s success stems from pushing boundaries and engaging both faculty and students through various technologies and innovative digital and communications strategies,” a Center for Digital Education spokesperson said. 

To watch May in action, follow this link for a video by Valencia College. 

May has been recognized in the past for his “eclectic” teaching strategies and use of technology in the classroom. In 2010, he was named the Association of Florida College’s Professor of the Year, and in 2011 he was selected as the CASE/Carnegie Foundation’s Florida Professor of the Year. In 2012, he won the Sloan Consortium Effective Practice Award for his presentation, “Cellphones in the Classroom: Collaborative or Calamitous?”


Algebra Nation 2.0 launched to meet statewide demand of teachers, students

GAINESVILLE, Fla.—Responding to widespread demand among teachers across the state, the University of Florida is launching Algebra Nation 2.0, an even more powerful way to help students succeed on the high-stakes algebra end-of-course exam.

Algebra Nation flagFor Florida’s high school students, the Algebra 1 end-of-course exam is as high stakes as it gets – it determines their future. They must pass the test to graduate. About 48 percent of ninth-graders failed the exam in the spring. Created by the UF Lastinger Center for Learning in partnership with the Florida Legislature, Governor’s Office and Department of Education, as well as Gainesville-based Study Edge, Algebra Nation offers students, teachers and parents a free, highly effective, interactive, 24/7 online resource aligned with the latest state standards.

“When we launched Algebra Nation 1.0 in January,” said UF Lastinger Center Director Don Pemberton, “we knew we were addressing a tremendous need with the right resource but we had no idea it would take off so fast and go so far.”

More than 3,800 teachers in 1,000 schools in all 67 Florida schools districts are using Algebra Nation. To keep up with the increasing demand, UF is launching Algebra Nation 2.0, which is fully accessible on the web, iPhones, Android phones and Facebook.

“Now Algebra Nation is truly everywhere – in and out of the classrooms, around the clock,” said Boaz Dvir, Algebra Nation’s UF project manager.

UF has been working with school districts around the state to integrate Algebra Nation 2.0 and make it as user-friendly as possible. Students and teachers sign on easily with their school credentials. Teachers find their rosters already loaded. No matter where they are, students can readily access videos, study guides, an online Practice Tool that mimics the end-of-course exam and an interactive Algebra Wall where they can receive help day and night. 

To assure a smooth transition, the Algebra Nation also offers free professional development sessions to teachers, math coaches and math supervisors throughout the state.

UF is also printing and delivering free Algebra Nation Workbooks, which supplement the Content Review Videos, to Florida Algebra 1 teachers and students. UF initially offered 25,000 free Workbooks on a first-come-first-served basis. But after receiving orders from 1,000 teachers for 165,000 workbooks, the Algebra Nation team decided to fill them all – at no printing or shipping charge to the teachers.

“The workbooks, as well as the four new apps, allow teachers and students to fully maximize Algebra Nation’s effectiveness,” said Study Edge President Ethan Fieldman.

The Lastinger Center, part of the College of Education, is an educational innovation incubator. It harnesses the university’s intellectual resources to design, build, field-test and scale models that advance teaching, learning and healthy child development. The center continuously evaluates and refines its work, widely disseminates its findings and roots its initiatives in a growing network of partner sites around the state and country.

Study Edge is a Gainesville-based enterprise that helps high school and college students improve their learning outcomes through technology. Its founder, Fieldman, was the first winner of the Cade Museum Prize for Innovation, created to inspire creative thinking and support future inventors and promising entrepreneurs in the local community. 

SOURCE: Boaz Dvir, UF Lastinger Center, bdvir@coe.ufl.edu, 352-273-0289


Donor-funded iPads helping COE students learn to teach digital curriculum

Today’s schools are under pressure to increase technology access, education and use for their students. UF’s College of Education is helping schools meet these 21st-century goals through a new initiative that prepares pre-service teachers with the resources and skills necessary to teach students how to effectively use and learn from technology. 

(From left to right) Students Kevin Autie, Katie Savitske and Meixian Shan explore elementary school-appropriate iPad applications in instructor Krista Ruggles' (far right in background) course, Integrating Technology in the Elementary Curriculum.

(From left to right) Students Kevin Autie, Katie Savitske and Meixian Shan explore elementary school-appropriate iPad applications in instructor Krista Ruggles’ (far right in background) course, Integrating Technology in the Elementary Curriculum.

All they need is one tool: an iPad. 

The College’s educational technology program recently purchased 20 iPads to be used in their technology integration courses. The mobile tablets were purchased through the Gilbart-Olsen Educational Technology Endowment, which was formed in 2008 with a $100,000 donation to the program from College of Education alumni Donald (BAE ’52, MEd ’63) and Helen Gilbart (BAE ’65, MEd ’67) and Norma Olsen (BAE ’76, MEd ’80). 

“Many pre-service teachers have not had the opportunity to use iPads or own them, which would be a challenge to implementing this technology in their classrooms,” said Helen Gilbart. “The college is keeping up with global trends by using this valuable tool to capture and hold student attention for learning.” 

With the iPad’s built-in features like a photo and video camera, Internet browser, audio recorder, accessibility features and, of course, applications, the Apple-made tablet offers numerous educational opportunities for students, according to professor Kara Dawson. 

Elementary education students in the technology integration courses were able to witness this first-hand during a recent visit to Kids Count, a local nonprofit afterschool program for kindergarten through third-grade students. The elementary ed students observed as Kids Count youngsters utilized a variety of iPad apps, from “Adding Apples” to “Rocket Speller” to “Marvel Math.” The overall reaction from the young students was positive. 

But for COE doctoral student Krista Ruggles, who teaches “Integrating Technology into the Elementary Curriculum,” the iPad offers far more than apps. 

“I hope they will see the value in using iPads as an instructional tool in the classroom for more than just drill and practice,” Ruggles said. “That’s the purpose of this class: to teach pre-service teachers how to help students become producers of technology, not consumers.”

SOURCE: Kara Dawson, educational technology, dawson@coe.ufl.edu
WRITER: Alexa Lopez, news and communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4449
MEDIA CONTACT: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137

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Gratitude inspires $2.2M gift to UF supporting teachers’ graduate studies

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Gratitude to his high school teachers has inspired a Wisconsin attorney and winter resident of Gainesville to establish a scholarship fund at the University of Florida to help practicing schoolteachers earn graduate degrees.

Michael Gengler’s $2.2 million donation, made through a provision in his will, will support Alachua County schoolteachers who enroll in graduate school at UF’s College of Education to improve their teaching skills and advance their careers. Interest earned on the investment will cover the full tuition costs of graduate studies at UF for at least three teachers each year, according to a college spokesman.

GENGLER, Mike (donor)Gengler, 69, credits his public schoolteachers, especially those who taught him at Gainesville High School, for his success in college and his law career.

“We all support our colleges and professional schools financially, but what about our public schools? They have to serve entire communities, not just a tiny fraction of the population,” said Gengler. “In my own experience, my public schoolteachers didn’t just get us through our classwork, they challenged us and inspired us.”

Gengler graduated from Gainesville High in 1962. He then earned degrees from Columbia University and Harvard Law School and practiced law in Boston and Chicago. He now lives most of the year near Madison, Wis., and spends winters in Gainesville.

 “I could not have had my career in corporate law in Gainesville, but at least I can give something back,” Gengler said. 

“What a wonderful legacy from one of Alachua County’s own,” said Alachua County Public School’s interim superintendent Hershel Lyons. “Mr. Gengler’s teachers would be very proud of both his success and his generosity. His gift is the perfect tribute to them and to all public school teachers.”

Teachers who receive a scholarship from the Michael T. Gengler Endowment Fund must have three or more years of classroom teaching experience and agree to teach for three more years in Alachua County after earning their advanced degrees.

“I hope this program helps attract excellent teachers to the county, and then will encourage them to pursue advanced degrees and leverage that talent and education in their classroom teaching careers,” Gengler said. “If the program works, the real beneficiaries will be their students.”

Glenn Good, dean of UF’s College of Education, described Gengler’s gift as “thoughtful and magnificent.”

“For Michael Gengler to honor his former teachers by helping other teachers speaks well of his character. His scholarships will have a ripple effect that will touch teachers and schoolchildren for generations,” Good said.

MEDIA CONTACT (UF): Larry Lansford, news and communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137, llansford@coe.ufl.edu
MEDIA CONTACT (SCHOOL DISTRICT): Jackie Johnson, Alachua County Public Schools, 352-955-7880; jackie.johnson@gm.sbac.edu
WRITER: Alexa Lopez, news and communications, UF College of Education, aklopez@coe.ufl.edu

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Study promotes early learning in everyday activities for infants, toddlers with disabilities

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In a multi-center study, Florida and Illinois researchers are testing a promising approach to help parents and caregivers of infants and toddlers with disabilities advance their child’s learning through everyday activities and routines.

Patricia Snyder portrait

Patricia Snyder

The researchers, from Florida State University, the University of Florida College of Education and the University of Illinois at Chicago, have received a highly competitive grant worth $1.5 million from the federal Institute of Education Sciences to develop and test an early intervention strategy for the people most important in these young children’s lives—the parents, grandparents or others entrusted with their daily care and well-being.

The project’s co-principal investigators are Patricia Snyder, professor and holder of the David J. Lawrence Jr. endowed chair in early childhood studies at UF; Juliann Woods, a professor of communication sciences and disorders at FSU; and Christine Salisbury, a special education professor at UIC.

“Learning begins at birth,” Snyder said. “Infants and toddlers—especially those with disabilities—benefit from responsive interactions and early-learning experiences in everyday activities.” 

The new approach, known as EPIC (short for embedded practices and intervention with caregivers), teaches therapists, teachers and other early-learning practitioners how to help parents and caregivers recognize and capitalize on the countless learning opportunities that occur in a child’s daily routine—in common activities like playing peek-a-boo, drinking from a cup, rolling a ball or getting into a car seat.

“Early intervention for young children with disabilities traditionally has involved practitioners working directly with the child. Very little time is spent supporting regular interactions and learning opportunities between the parents and child,” said Woods of FSU.

The EPIC team is developing a “curriculum” for early-intervention providers with guidelines for coaching parents to incorporate responsive learning experiences into their children’s everyday activities. Feedback from the practitioners will aid the researchers in field-testing and finalizing the coaching and intervention processes.

“With this intervention approach, caregivers of young children with significant disabilities will learn how to enhance their interactions in meaningful and useful activities to support learning,” said Salisbury of UIC.

The two-state EPIC project is one of only 13 projects funded this year by the Institute of Education Sciences out of more than 900 applications, due to federal budget cuts.

Researchers say the new approach could benefit tens of thousands of America’s youngest children. According to U.S. Department of Education figures, nearly 350,000 infants and toddlers under age 3 who have disabilities are enrolled annually in federal programs providing early intervention services. About one in every five, or 70,000 children, has a diagnosed physical or mental condition likely to impede normal development. Among the conditions are Down’s syndrome, impaired vision or hearing, neurological impairments, social and emotional delays, and other genetic conditions.

Recent studies identify the use of “embedded instruction” in everyday activities as a recommended practice for young preschoolers with disabilities, but researchers say additional studies are needed to identify the best methods for showing parents how to engage their children in these natural learning opportunities.

A core element of the EPIC intervention is a set of five questions—the “5Q process”—with accompanying visual cues that help parents recognize an opportune time, place, or activity to teach their child, how and what to teach, what their goals and expectations are, and how to know if it’s working.

“Visual cues might be a video clip or a cell phone app, or simply an eraser board message on the refrigerator reminding parents about mealtime teaching opportunities,” Snyder said. “The five questions quickly become second nature in daily interactions with their child.”

The three-year study started in June at each university site in Florida and Chicago with focus groups and a review panel of practitioners and parents evaluating the EPIC intervention and resource materials. A small tryout trial involving eight children and their families, and their intervention providers, will follow to confirm the method’s feasibility and acceptance by participating providers and families and to adjust the intervention as needed.

In the second year, researchers will further test the intervention with three individual children with disabilities and their families; the final phase in Year 3 culminates with a pilot comparative study of two groups—an EPIC test group and another receiving traditional intervention—involving 20 families in Florida and 20 in Illinois.

“We anticipate our study results will support the need for larger-scale studies to demonstrate that EPIC is an effective, recommended approach in early intervention,” Snyder said.


SOURCE: Patricia Snyder, the Lawrence Endowed Professor in Early Childhood Studies, UF College of Education, 352-273-4291; patriciasnyder@coe.ufl.edu
WRITER/NEWS DESK: Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137;llansford@coe.ufl.edu

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UF gift from novelist James Patterson creates 8 scholarships in elementary education

PattersonIt should come as no surprise that James Patterson, one of America’s current top bestselling authors, has a passion for books and reading, and he supports those who do the same.

But the plot thickens. Patterson believes one way to champion books and reading for children is by supporting our future teachers, which explains why his Patterson Family Foundation has donated $48,000 for scholarships benefiting eight elementary education students at the University of Florida.

“I was especially impressed by the teaching program at UF’s College of Education,” said Patterson, who lives in Palm Beach. “As a Floridian myself, I know UF is committed to quality in education, and I want to help these students who are eager to become great teachers.”

Patterson has sold more than 275 million copies of his books worldwide and has received and been nominated for numerous awards. He also holds the Guinness world record for most hardcover fiction bestselling titles by a single author. 

His foundation’s gift to the college will award eight incoming elementary education students with a $6,000 scholarship for the 2013-2014 school year. The scholarship recipients will be obligated to submit a written essay by the end of the academic year in which they describe how they plan to apply what they have learned in their teacher education program within their future classrooms.

“Great teachers are at the core of our democracy,” said Elizabeth Bondy, the director of the college’s School of Teaching and Learning. “This gift will enable dedicated college freshmen to become practitioner scholars who will educate our youth and lead ongoing efforts to strengthen schools and society.”

The Patterson Family Foundation has provided scholarships to undergraduate and graduate education students at more than 15 colleges across the United States. The author and his wife also support scholarships at their alma mater universities, Manhattan College, Vanderbilt University and the University of Wisconsin. 

Patterson, author of best-selling suspense-thriller series like Alex Cross, Women’s Murder Club and Michael Bennett, is also the current bestselling author in the young adult and middle grade categories.

SOURCE: Sabrina Benun, Hachette Book Group, 212-364-1487, sabrina.benun@hbgusa.com
SOURCE: Elizabeth Bondy, School of Teaching and Learning, UF College of Education, 352-273-4242, bondy@coe.ufl.edu
MEDIA CONTACT: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137, llansford@coe.ufl.edu
WRITER: Alexa Lopez, news and communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4449, aklopez@coe.ufl.edu

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Counselor ed study links life stressors to students’ reading scores


From left: Harry Daniels, a professor of counselor education, Dia Harden, a 2010 doctoral graduate (who participated in UF’s original “geo-demographic” study), and Eric Thompson, who received his doctorate this summer. (File photo)

As researchers across the country continue the search for early indicators of academic failure and dropouts, University of Florida education researchers are paying particularly close attention to warning signs predicting reading test scores.

Eric Thompson, a summer doctoral graduate in counselor education at UF’s College of Education, recently completed his dissertation research in which he dissected the causes of a reading achievement gap found among Alachua County students in third through 10th grades.

According to Thompson, the cause of low reading achievement may be rooted in how vulnerable a student has been to stressful circumstances in life, including a low socioeconomic level, minority status, and even low birth weight, which affect academic performance.

One of Thompson’s most significant findings is a striking difference in students’ achievement based on their socioeconomic status.

“Students living in low socioeconomic environments are more likely to encounter more risk factors and experience fewer supports,” Thompson said.

Although this research finding may not surprise some, Thompson said, he and his co-primary investigator Harry Daniels, a professor of counselor education, were able to uncover and describe exactly why such performance gaps occur. 

Their studies showed that the least affluent students scored about 300 points less than their more affluent peers on the FCAT reading exam. Thompson also discovered that most affluent groups started with very high scores in the third grade, while the least affluent students started very low and stayed low throughout their schooling. 

Low socioeconomic level was primarily determined by looking at each student’s family and community lifestyles based on spending patterns, credit card data and other related information. 

However, Thompson’s research showed that students with a low socioeconomic level have also experienced other stressful life circumstances. Compared to students with a middle- to a high-socioeconomic level, the least affluent students were born at a lower birth weight; had parents who were younger and “potentially less mature” when the students were born; had parents with a lower level of education and a higher rate of unemployment; and are currently enrolled in schools with a higher percentage of students with free-and-reduced lunch and a larger population of minority students.

“It would appear from the onset that these students are at more risk for poor academic performance than those in the more affluent group,” Thompson said.

For his doctoral research, Thompson studied students’ reading scores between 2004 and 2011 and tracked trends based on four variables: each student’s biological qualities like gestational age and ethnicity, characteristics about each student’s family including parents’ education, the student’s school demographics, and the lifestyles of those in the student’s community. Thompson calls this the “individual-family-school-community model.”

“You have growth and maturation in the biological domain, including genetics and personality, and the social domain, which includes family, school, community,” Thompson said. “Within this intersection, you have risk and protective factors that relate to stress. The cumulative effect of stressors like poverty, family life and peer stress accumulates through time and can inhibit learning.”

The study also showed that not only did these individual, family, school and community characteristics differ among socioeconomic groups, but their influence on academic risk also differed. For example, minority status and the presence of minority students in their school did not affect affluent students’ performance. Thompson said that students living in a low-socioeconomic environment may receive fewer social and academic supports.

Thompson’s recent research is a follow-up of a 2010 “geo-demographics” study by a UF team that documented a profound correlation between home location, family lifestyles and students’ achievement on state standardized tests.

“While school improvement and teaching quality are vital, we are demonstrating that the most important factor in student learning may be the children’s lifestyle and the early learning opportunities they receive at home,” Daniels said.

Thompson and Daniels hope their findings shed light on the increasing need to tailor classroom and counseling activities so each student’s individual needs are being met.

“It would be irresponsible to treat every child the exact same way because every student comes from a different background and experience,” Thompson said. “We need to ask ourselves, ‘How do we help students develop a lifestyle conducive to academic success? How can we adjust the delivery of education to meet the needs of students from diverse backgrounds?’”

SOURCE: Eric Thompson, doctoral graduate in counselor education from the UF College of Education, 352-328-9571, erict56@ufl.edu
SOURCE: Harry Daniels, professor of counselor education at the UF College of Education, 352-273-4321, harryd@coe.ufl.edu
WRITER: Alexa Lopez, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137, aklopez@coe.ufl.edu


UF, Palm Beach County schools launch bold STEM ed reform effort

The School District of Palm Beach County, together with the University of Florida, has announced the launch of a three-year reform effort to build a “best-in-class” educational program in the vital STEM subject areas of science, technology, engineering and math.

Officials say the ambitious effort could become a national model for transforming teacher practice and student learning in the STEM subjects. The resulting professional development and educational advances will directly benefit thousands of teachers and students in the Palm Beach County district.

Palm Beach County science teachers construct an atom model at a UF Summer Institute on chemistry instruction recently at UF's P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School.

Palm Beach County science teachers construct an atom model at a UF Summer Institute on chemistry instruction recently at UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School.

Major funding support for the STEM initiative’s rollout comes from $1 million in combined grants from three charitable foundations—the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties, the Mary and Robert Pew Public Education Fund and Quantum Foundation. Additional funding is projected with amounts to be considered before the effort’s second and third years.

UF has worked with the school district and its community and philanthropic partners in planning the initiative, and will provide “in-kind” professional development and educational programs valued at more than $1 million—funded primarily by additional state and national foundation grants held by UF’s College of Education 

UF and school district officials expect the Palm Beach County STEM Initiative to yield measurable improvement in four key areas: school culture, teacher quality, student learning, and higher performance and assessment evaluations in the STEM subjects for teachers and students. Certain programs are designed especially for schools in high-poverty communities where recruiting and retaining teachers is more challenging 

 “This bold initiative will position the Palm Beach County school system as a national leader in recruiting, retaining and developing highly effective teachers and boosting students’ achievement,” said Dean Glenn Good of UF’s College of Education. 

Palm Beach County School Superintendent E. Wayne Gent said, “With the ever increasing importance of STEM-related jobs in Florida, the (school district) is dedicated to equipping our teachers with the resources they need to educate the future STEM leaders of tomorrow. We are grateful to our partners at the University of Florida, along with the generosity of our key foundation partners, who made this program a reality.”

UF’s College of Education brings several existing STEM education innovations to the partnership. The college’s Lastinger Center for Learning will provide job-embedded professional learning opportunities to district science and math teachers, and the center’s free, online Algebra Nation tutoring program (launched last year in numerous Florida school districts) supports students and their teachers preparing for a required algebra end-of-course exam.

Through an outreach program called U-FUTuRES — or UF Unites Teachers to Reform Education in Science — university professors will train middle-school Science Teacher Leaders to lead districtwide implementation of research-proven teaching practices and subject content. The education college also will provide tuition-free courses to 15 Palm Beach County teachers for a certification program in math or science education that they can take without leaving their classrooms. UF launched U-FUTuRES last year in 20 mostly rural Florida school districts under a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

Another new UF program is Florida STEM-TIPS (Teacher Induction and Professional Support), which will have education faculty developing coaching, mentoring and networking programs for new science and math teachers in Palm Beach County.

Other components of the UF-Palm Beach Schools STEM initiative include:

  • Math and science clinics emphasizing special “inquiry-based” teaching and learning practices;
  • Weeklong summer institutes at UF for teachers led by UF science and math professors;
  • Regular meetings of principals and school leaders to support improved STEM teaching and learning in the district;
  • An annual learning showcase where teachers can share the results of their new learning experiences. 

    Source: Tom Dana, associate dean, UF College of Education, 352-273-4134
    Writer: Larry Lansford, News & Communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137, llansford@coe.ufl.edu



UFTeach summer scholars get hands-on training in STEM education

WATCH NOW on the COE YouTube channel. CLICK HERE: http://goo.gl/J6JCje

A college student’s typical summer often includes lounging by a pool, spending hours glued to technology and social media, and sleeping until noon.

For recipients of the University of Florida’s Noyce summer scholarships, however, vacation days this summer were spent soaked in science teaching and learning.

Noyce summer scholars are enrolled in the university’s UFTeach program, a collaborative effort between the colleges of Education and Liberal Arts and Sciences that provides math and science majors with an education minor to prepare them for teaching the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and math. During the summer, each scholar serves as an intern at an informal science education setting, such as a museum, zoo, botanical park, fossil dig or nature center.

Summer scholar Barry Congressi prepares a rhinoceros vertebrae fossil for display at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

UFTeach Summer Scholar Barry Congressi prepares a rhinoceros vertebrae fossil for display at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.

“Today’s students need a much stronger foundation in STEM subject areas beginning in middle and high school, and teachers have one of the most significant impacts on student learning,” said UFTeach associate director Dimple Flesner. “It is critical that mathematics and science teachers have a strong academic background in the subjects they teach. UFTeach answers this call.”

As part of a five-year, $1.2 million grant, the National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program will fund 18 UFTeach scholars every summer with a $5,000 stipend, as well as 10 additional students each school year with $10,000. The Noyce program funds higher-education institutions across the country to support scholarships, stipends and academic programs for STEM majors who pursue a teaching credential and commit to teaching at least two years in high-needs public school districts.

“We hope our Noyce interns will discover the value and importance of informal education settings and begin to see the world as their classroom,” said Flesner, a co-principal investigator of UF’s Noyce internship project along with UFTeach co-director Tom Dana, an associate dean at the College of Education.

UF senior math major Barry Congressi, one of this year’s 18 summer scholars, mathematics major has been working at the Florida Museum of Natural History on UF’s Gainesville campus. He is stationed at the museum’s vertebrae paleontology unit, where he cleans and prepares fossils for display.

STILL, Brooke_9132

Summer scholar Brooke Still helps a camper on his art project at Miami’s Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

Although Congressi is studying mathematics, he said his Noyce internship has been both a personal and professional learning experience.

“Not only have I really learned a lot about paleontology in the last couple of months, but I have discovered that I can find inspiration for mathematics lessons anywhere and almost anything can be used to help teach others,” he said.

Junior Brooke Still is also a math major working within a science environment. She is an intern at Miami’s Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and its butterfly conservatory. Each day, Still either works with children participating in Fairchild’s summer camp, or she interacts with and educates guests at the butterfly conservatory.

Her experience, she said, has taught her practical skills that are necessary in the classroom. One of these is patience.

“Without patience, you can’t successfully motivate your students or guide their learning,” she said.

Caguetzia Soulouque

Caguetzia Soulouque at Miami’s Jungle Island

Also in Miami is sophomore Caguetzia Soulouque, who has spent her summer afternoons coordinating field trips and planning fun, informative and memorable lessons for young visitors at the Jungle Island zoo. She also was working to develop an educational curriculum for the zoo’s field trip visitors and its potential future summer camp.

“Through this experience I’ve learned a lot about what learning opportunities children are receiving and aren’t receiving in schools, as well as how I can use Jungle Island and similar places as a teaching resource,” Soulouque said. “It’s summer and kids don’t want anything to do with school, so I’ve had to learn how to make lessons that are entertaining yet educational.”

Senior Shivee Gupta, a zoology major interning at the Florida Museum of Natural History, is also finding ways to make science fun but still challenging. Her workdays involve creating videos and exhibits for visitors and educators about subjects like invasive species, animal attacks and beach bird nests.

Zoology major Shivee Gupta  prepares a beach bird nest display at the Flurida Museum of Natural History.

UFTeach zoology major Shivee Gupta prepares a beach bird nest display at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

“The main challenge we have as educators is how we get a message across to our students and to the public that is understandable,” Gupta said. “Through my internship and the class that goes with it, I’ve learned how to take scientific knowledge and present it in a way so everyone can understand it without ‘losing’ the science. 

The NSF’s Noyce scholarship program is just one of several recent initiatives by the College of Education to bolster teaching and learning in the STEM subjects. Each of the selected Noyce scholars recognizes the need for more STEM majors and teachers in this global knowledge economy.

For intern Brooke Still, it all begins with “better informed and more passionate STEM teachers who motivate their students to learn, resulting in students who are genuinely more interested in STEM subjects,” she said.

“Our world revolves around STEM subjects,” Gupta added. “Everything you do and see has some science or math incorporated. Students need to begin to see a holistic view of the world and STEM education really brings that together.”


WRITER: Alexa Lopez, news and communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4449
MEDIA CONTACT: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137


School discipline researcher suggests alternatives to out-of-school suspensions

(In a recent guest column in the Gainesville Sun, titled “Curbing the need to suspend,” retired teacher Greg Marshall applauded local efforts to curb the use of suspension as punishment in public schools. Instead of suspensions, Marshall asserted that by understanding students’ impoverished backgrounds, educators can help students meet the school’s “hidden” middle class expectations. Below, in an open letter responding to Marshall’s column, Brianna Kennedy-Lewis, an assistant professor in UF’s School of Teaching and Learning and a school discipline researcher, counters that educators must change how we think about student behavior and learning so “our focus is on students’ strengths and schools’ failures, rather than on schools’ strengths and students’ failures.”)

Brianna Kennedy-Lewis

Brianna Kennedy-Lewis

Here is her letter:

Greg Marshall’s recent article in the Gainesville Sun applauded the Alachua County School Board’s plan to host a workshop to address the overuse of out-of-school suspensions. As a former middle school teacher and current school discipline researcher, I echo his applause. However, I disagree with Mr. Marshall’s belief that using author Ruby Payne’s “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” will solve the problem. Payne’s framework asserts that all students living in poverty have negative backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences that cause them to misbehave and fail in school. Payne believes that by understanding students’ impoverished backgrounds, educators can help students meet the school’s middle class expectations. Although Payne’s work has no scientific basis, it is appealing because it gives educators a non-threatening way to diagnose difficulties without challenging our assumptions.

Scientific research and the experiences of many educators tell a story much different than Payne’s. There is a national discipline gap between White students and students of color. Research has shown that whether or not they are poor, students of color are punished three-and-a-half times more frequently than Whites for similar offenses and the punishments are harsher. We know that out-of-school suspensions do not result only from the misbehavior of students living in poverty. Instead, educators’ beliefs, judgments, and responses to students play a critical role in the school discipline landscape.

As educators, our views of student behavior, instructional decisions, classroom management practices, and even the curriculum we teach, reflect our cultural backgrounds, which often differ from those of our students. As students become increasingly diverse across the nation, educators face the challenge of providing responsive school environments. Twenty-first century educators must understand and build upon the values and interactional styles of their students rather than following Payne’s recommendation to hold students accountable for middle class expectations. As educators, we must change how we think about student behavior and learning so that our focus is on students’ strengths and schools’ failures rather than on schools’ strengths and students’ failures. We educators have the power and responsibility to impart radical respect for students and families, invest tirelessly in building relationships with all students, and work creatively and collaboratively to provide relevant instruction for all. Focusing on these areas of educational practice will help us avoid many of the interactions that currently lead to out-of-school suspensions.

When disciplinary consequences are necessary, educators should replace out-of-school suspensions with developmentally appropriate, research-based, and effective alternatives. The National School Boards Association has recently released a policy guide (available online) outlining practical steps that school districts around the country are taking to reduce out-of-school suspensions.

(Editor’s Note: The Alachua County School Board hosted a public workshop July 11 on this issue. ACSB Chairwoman Eileen Roy said the next step is to create a committee to help school administrators get the right resources for providing alternatives to suspension.)

Brianna L. Kennedy-Lewis, Ph.D., UF College of Education; bkennedy@coe.ufl.edu

State legislature invests $2M in Algebra Nation, UF’s answer to high-stakes End-of-Course exam

Algebra Nation flagAfter hearing from teachers who actively engaged with Algebra Nation in its trial period, the state Legislature has invested $2 million to expand the reach and impact of the University of Florida’s innovative program to help students succeed on the high-stakes End-of-Course exam. 

Developed by UF’s Lastinger Center for Learning in partnership with the Florida Department of Education and Gainesville-based Study Edge, Algebra Nation offers Florida’s teachers, students and parents a free, accessible, interactive 24/7 online resource and supplemental instructional tool aligned with the latest state standards.

“We had planned to continue self-financing Algebra Nation in its second pilot year,” UF Lastinger Center Director Don Pemberton said. “We are honored that the Florida Legislature has independently recognized that Algebra Nation is making a difference for teachers, students and parents throughout the state.”

The UF Lastinger Center plans to substantially expand Algebra Nation’s reach and impact in many ways, including:

  • Building a new app that allows teachers to fully utilize the program in their classrooms.
  • Aligning the Algebra Nation material with the new Common Core State Standards.
  • Creating new assessment tools.
  • Designing, building, field-testing and implementing a teachers’ Common Core professional development network.
  • Producing new instructional videos aligned with this year’s state standards and the Common Core State Standards, which will be taught this year but will be tested next year.
  • Updating and upgrading the Algebra Nation Workbook.

For Florida’s high school students, the Algebra 1 EOC is as high stakes as it gets — it determines their future. They must pass it to graduate. About 48 percent of ninth-graders failed the spring 2013 Algebra 1 End-of-Course exam.

“We’ve created Algebra Nation to help Florida students succeed in this key STEM subject,” said Joy Schackow, UF STEM professor-in-residence in Pinellas County who serves as Algebra Nation’s math expert. “Algebra serves as a gatekeeper to success in high school and beyond.” 

Since it launched Jan. 15, Algebra Nation has exceeded expectations. More than half of Florida’s middle and high school algebra teachers, representing 900 schools in all 67 school districts, have used this learning ecosystem. In and out of the classrooms, teachers and students showed and watched the Algebra Nation instructional videos more than 116,000 times.

Students have posted as many as 1,000 daily inquiries, answers and comments on the Algebra Wall, which is monitored in real time by Algebra Nation study experts.

“Research tells us that peer-tutoring is one of the most effective ways to learn,” said Boaz Dvir, UF’s Algebra Nation project manager. “On our Algebra Wall, students feel free to ask even the simplest questions. The discussions they spark and the answers they elicit are simultaneously individualized and universal.” 

Students also post feedback to the Algebra Nation team, including:

  • “This is the best tool I have used in my entire life! I actually used to hate algebra at one point, but my Dad heard about this on NPR … I hope I get to use this tool throughout my life!”
  • “I’d just like to say Bravo! Algebra Nation is so fun and is such a good way to have students practice and learn more.”
  • “Math has always been my toughest subject in school (my definite strength and talent is writing), therefore the Algebra Nation team has REALLY been helping me … I think the practice quizzes are especially helpful, because we can test our knowledge and understanding of what we learned in the guiding videos and apply it to test-taking.”

Teachers are equally appreciative. For instance, Ponte Vedra High School algebra teacher Janice Rausch wrote, “Thank you so much for developing a great resource like Algebra Nation. There are so many fantastic links and resources that I have really loved using in my class. Next year, I would love to use some of your lessons as I go. I have loved using your resources by section to reteach and ‘remind’ them about challenging topics. Thanks again for creating such a rich and wonderful resource!”

Housed in the UF College of Education, the Lastinger Center is an educational innovation incubator. It harnesses the university’s intellectual resources to design, build, field-test and scale models that advance teaching, learning and healthy child development. The center continuously evaluates and refines its work, widely disseminates its findings and roots its initiatives in a growing network of partner sites around the state and country. 

Study Edge is a Gainesville-based enterprise that helps college students improve their outcomes. Its founding president, Ethan Fieldman, was the first winner of the Cade Museum Prize for Innovation.

SOURCE/WRITER: Boaz Dvir, UF Lastinger Center for Learning, bdvir@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-0289

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Technology Teaching Lab for future teachers takes interactive learning to higher level

STL Associate Director Suzanne Colvin is shown with ProTeach students in the tech-enhanced classroom.

STL Associate Director Suzanne Colvin is shown with ProTeach students in the tech-enhanced classroom.

After a few months of training sessions and moderate class scheduling, the UF College of Education’s new “technology teaching laboratory” will open in full swing this fall to hundreds of computer-savvy students—not only in education but from several colleges across campus.  

Aiming to bring teacher education into the 21st century, the college has converted a vintage 1979 reading clinic—Room 2309 in UF’s Norman Hall—into a digital-age, tech-smart classroom, where professors are incorporating the latest technology into their teaching to transform student learning and increase teacher-student engagement.

The college last year received $141,000 for the room makeover project from UF’s Office of Academic Technology through a campuswide grant program supported by yearly student technology fees.

The reinvented classroom features the latest educational technology. New touch-screen SMART boards complement the traditional dry-erase boards, and students sit in groups for collaboration at seven movable media pods. Up to four iPads or laptops can be connected at each station, and all four screens can be shown at once on a shared large monitor.

“The greatest innovation isn’t the SMART boards or the iPads—it’s the use of technology to redesign the classroom into collaborative thinking stations,” said Suzanne Colvin, associate director of teacher education in the college’s School of Teaching and Learning. She was instrumental in orchestrating the classroom makeover and its funding.

The teaching lab’s seven media pods each face a large screen for the students to share their computer-monitor views with the group. Each station can connect to one of two 40-inch monitors at each end of the classroom. With the screens at each station and the capability to connect to the larger monitors, the instructor can see what each group is working on from a distance, even with large classes.

“The students are literally in awe when they first walk into class,” Colvin said. “They are digital natives, though, so it’s easy for them to adapt to the room and to utilize the equipment.” 

Colvin said the classroom technology can improve the interaction between students and the instructor or among themselves in group projects and problem-solving exercises. “Students can get a group-thinking experience in the new classroom that isn’t possible with distance learning or a traditional lecture-style class,” she said.

Clinical assistant professor Caitlin Gallingane likes holding sessions of her literacy methods courses in the tech-smart classroom because “it makes students active participants” in the lessons.

“Instead of showing a video of a teaching practice on the screen at the front of the room, students are each responsible for finding an online example of a teaching practice and then watching them together on the shared screens at the media pod and evaluating the practices as a group,” Gallingane said.

The lab’s collaborative technology lets students take more responsibility for their own learning and become critical thinkers—a necessary skill for success in today’s interconnected knowledge economy.

Barbara Pace, associate professor in English education, teaches technology and media literacy, a required course for future English teachers, and holds some of her classes in the lab so her students can learn to use a variety of digital tools in their reading instruction. 

The tech-enhanced teaching lab “offers greater opportunities for students to engage in interactive group work and gather information from a variety of sources,” Pace said. “Synthesizing information (using the lab’s digital tools) seems more focused on ‘why’ than on ‘how’.”


UF, historically black colleges and universities launching statewide mentoring for at-risk minority youth

Cheryl Williams and Michael Bowie, the prime drivers behind the recent launch of a statewide mentoring program for at-risk minority youth.

Cheryl Williams and Michael Bowie, the prime drivers behind the recent launch of a statewide mentoring program for at-risk minority youth.

Research has shown that minority youth in Florida are less likely to graduate from high school and more likely to encounter law enforcement officials compared to their white peers.

University of Florida education researchers want to reverse that trend through a new program that will provide 150 at-risk minority students, particularly young black males, with role model mentors and other supportive services as a way to increase the students’ chances of academic and social success.

Collaborating in the effort are the UF College of Education, historically black colleges and universities in Florida, state legislators including senators Christopher Smith and Dwight Bullard and Representatives Perry Thurston and Dwayne Taylor, and community organizations including Partnership for Strong Families and 21st Century Research & Evaluations, Inc. 

“We need to provide children with viable options that will lead them towards a successful life,” said Cheryl Williams, the College of Education’s community and government liaison, who worked with Florida legislators to secure funding for the mentoring project. “Education is a key component of that success.”

With $619,000 funded by the Florida Legislature, the Situational Environmental Circumstances Mentoring Program (SEC) will match student mentors at the historically black colleges and universities in Florida with minority male elementary school students. The mentor-mentee pairs will share similar challenging backgrounds such as low socioeconomic home environments, delinquency records and poor academic achievement.

“It makes good sense to start at the elementary level because we have the opportunity to intervene in a trajectory that often leads to the prison pipeline,” Williams said. “From an early age, we can change their outlook and impact on our global society.”

The high school graduation rate for black males in Florida is about 47 percent, according to the Schott Foundation for Public Education’s 2012 “Urgency of Now” report. Government data also shows that black males constitute 47 percent of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and 46 percent of the Department of Corrections’ incarcerated populations.

To reverse this trend, the SEC model is rooted in the idea that “high-risk youth have various situational and environmental circumstances that impact their life choices and opportunities for success,” said Randy Nelson, the founder of 21st Century Research & Evaluations, Inc., a Tallahassee-based human services firm, and the lead developer of the SEC model.

“The traditional model of attempting to correct anti-social behavior by adjusting these kids’ attitudes and sending them back into an environment that breeds negative behaviors has not worked,” Nelson said. “We need to teach them skills that will allow them to navigate and negotiate within these environments by showing them how to make good decisions, like choosing a solid education and recognizing what kind of people can lead them down the wrong path.”

This is why the mentoring initiative pairs these underserved children with relatable mentors whose positive behavior they can emulate. 

The mentors for the UF-led project will be chosen from the University of Florida, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) in Tallahassee, Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, and Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens. Each institution will select and train between eight and 10 mentors, who will receive monthly stipends. After training, each mentor will be matched with three or four at-risk children—or 30 total – from local low-performing elementary schools.

The mentors will meet with each of their mentees four times a month, with two of those being one-on-one. Every other month, SEC leaders will host a workshop on important motivation-building topics, including self-esteem, parent and family issues, anger management, peer pressure, conflict resolution, understanding diversity and goal-setting. After each workshop, the elementary students will have discussions with their college mentors about what they learned.

“What makes this so difficult is that these are elementary school kids and we’re going to have to be much more interactive and simplistic in the way that we present this information to them,” said Michael Bowie, the director and principal Investigator of the state-funded project. Bowie also directs the Office for Recruitment, Retention and Multicultural Affairs at UF’s College of Education.

UF’s aim to help underserved elementary school students is a first for the SEC model, which has been implemented in the past within Florida middle and high schools.

Samuel Johnson, a fourth-year student at FAMU, was a mentor for one of the first SEC programs last year. He mentored four high school students in Tallahassee, and he will be a mentor for the UF-led program as well.

“These kids have had hard lives, but somebody has to tell them things like that they don’t have to own a handgun or they don’t have to start drinking when they’re 12 years old,” Johnson said. “If they want to be a doctor or something, they can. They just need to put effort into it.”

Research tracking the SEC program’s past effectiveness, at the middle and high school grade levels, shows an overall improvement in the youths’ academic performance and attendance and marked reductions in disruptive behavior at school.   

When the UF-led project begins in September, the research team will also evaluate the program’s impact on the elementary school mentees. Bowie said if the mentoring project succeeds with the elementary students, the SEC team will seek funding to continue tracking the mentored youth through the K-12 system and college.


Writer: Alexa Lopez, news and communications, UF College of Education; aklopez@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4449
Media Relations: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137
Source: Michael Bowie


PKY starts planning for new secondary wing

With dust barely settled from the recent construction of P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School’s prototype elementary wing, preparations have started for the next phase of the school’s campus revitalization project: a new $15.9 million building that will house the middle and high school grades.

P.K. Yonge is the K-12 laboratory school of the University of Florida’s College of Education. The lab school’s existing secondary wing is located south of the local Tumblin Creek among several separate buildings built in the 1950s and ‘60s.

With a design concept already in place, planning for the new 75,000-square-foot secondary school building pressed forward with a meeting in May between P.K. Yonge’s construction committee and representatives from the Orlando office of SchenkelShultz Architecture. The two teams met for the second time in early June.

“The new secondary school building will contain a variety of learning spaces, none of which will look like traditional classrooms,” said P.K. Yonge’s technology coordinator Julie Henderson. “This building will be unique as the design supports modes of learning for today’s and tomorrow’s children.”

The main goal of the new building’s design is to incorporate community-style spaces that support collaboration, flexibility, mobility, as well as individual work. The learning areas will also include space for computers, teacher work, eating, and lounging. The classroom walls will be transparent to support observations of students and class activities.

“Experts in the field were calling our new elementary wing a model school building for the 21st century, and we’re using the same progressive design principles in planning our secondary wing as a student-centered learning community,” said P.K. Yonge Director Lynda Hayes.

In fact, the recently completed elementary wing received merit recognition this year from the Florida Educational Facilities Planners’ Association during its Architectural Showcase.

In the current design-build phase, SchenkelShultz is consulting a faculty committee composed of elementary, middle and high school faculty members that is providing the firm with “their needs and dreams related to learning spaces,” Henderson said.

The firm has also surveyed P.K. Yonge secondary students and teachers to determine their instructional and learning preferences.

To make room for the new secondary wing, the school library and a separate wing of classrooms will be demolished. The library program and resources will be moved to a temporary location while demolition and construction take place.

Once funding for the project is secured, a groundbreaking is possible within 10 months. Construction is estimated to take 12-14 months after breaking ground.

After the new secondary school is constructed, P.K. Yonge plans to continue the campus revitalization project with the construction of a gym and fitness center, administration building, global learning center, library, parking lots and sports fields.

SOURCE: Lynda Hayes, 352-392-1554, ext. 223, lhayes@pky.ufl.edu
MEDIA RELATIONS: Larry Lansford, 352-273-4137, llansford@coe.ufl.edu


Florida DOE alerting recent teacher prep students of personal info exposed

Dear College of Education Students and Alumni:

We want to alert any current or former students enrolled in Florida teacher prep programs–including the University of Florida’s–during the 2009–10, 2010–11, and 2011–12 academic years of the possibility that personal information was exposed on the Internet during a data transfer at Florida State University. FSU was housing the data under contract with the Florida Department of Education.

In late May, FSU’s Florida Center for Interactive Media moved the data to a new server, but failed to enact security measures to restrict access to only authorized individuals.The DOE learned about the security breach on June 11 and worked with FSU officials to close the access, clear all cached data files and run security checks. The DOE has been contacting affected individuals whose information could have been misused.

Although UF was not involved in the information security breach, we are assisting the DOE in notifying any individuals whose information may have been exposed. We also want to reinforce the DOE’s efforts in pointing affected or concerned UF students and alumni to appropriate resources for additional information . . .

Florida Department of Education Press Release: http://www.fldoe.org/news/2013/2013_06_21.asp


Dedicated hotline within the Florida Department of Education with staff available to answer questions: 1-866-507-1109.

If you suspect that your Social Security number or other personal information may have been misused or that you may be the victim of identity theft, please also contact the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/idtheft or call 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338).

Feel free to contact UF’s College of Education Student Services Office with questions or concerns: 1-352-273-4376. 

COE posts open response to disputed NCTQ Teacher Prep Review

Open Response from the College of Education to the NCTQ Teacher Prep Review

As you may know, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ, a self-appointed watchdog group based in Washington) published ratings yesterday from a deeply contested review of teacher preparation programs nationwide. Here is the link to the online version of their Teacher Prep Review: http://nctq.org/dmsStage/Teacher_Prep_Review_2013_Report.  

We applaud efforts that direct attention to improving teacher education and welcome new information and credible feedback in working to continually improve the quality of our teacher preparation programs. Education deans in Florida and across the nation, though, have criticized the standards and research methods of NCTQ’s two-year review, which relied heavily on document review, and pointed out the council’s documented bias against higher education-based teacher preparation programs. The council’s document-based research methods are analogous to reviewing restaurants solely by their menus without visiting the place or tasting the food. The 800-member American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) discouraged its members from cooperating in the review and many, including UF, released their documents (college catalogs and handbooks, course syllabi and other materials) only after receiving formal open-records requests.  

Here is a link to an online news release from the AACTE regarding the NCTQ’s Teacher Prep Review: http://aacte.org/news-room/press-releases/nctq-review-of-nations-education-schools-deceives-misinforms-public.html

I encourage you to examine the NCTQ report and read the AACTE’s response on their website linked above, and be aware of articles in the popular media. The position of the UF College of Education on the Teacher Prep Review is similar to that of the AACTE.

Please be aware that UF’s College of Education welcomes transparency and has been continuously accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, the nation’s primary accreditor of teacher-preparation programs, since its founding in 1954. New data systems available from the Florida Department of Education provide substantial evidence of the high quality of teachers graduating from University of Florida programs. Through ongoing self-evaluation, surveys of Florida school principals and our graduates, and new advances in monitoring student achievement in the classrooms of our teacher-graduates, UF’s College of Education, rated 30th nationally and No. 1 in Florida among public graduate education colleges in the latest rankings by U.S. News and World Report, is continuously improving how we measure the readiness of our students to graduate and positively impact student achievement in their classrooms.

Our teacher-education candidates have a 100% pass rate on the Florida Teacher Certification Exam, and our education alumni and school principals continue to inform us that our graduates are well-prepared when they enter the classroom on their first day on the job. We are confident that education students who study at the University of Florida will continue to have a competitive edge when they enter the job market and will make a positive impact on their students’ achievement.

Feel free to contact Dean Glenn Good (ggood@ufl.edu) or Associate Dean Tom Dana (tdana@coe.ufl.edu) if you have any questions or comments about this matter.


Summer institutes for teachers offered in reading instruction, Common Core

Attendees at P.K. Yonge's 2009 Teacher Scholars Reading Academy observe as an institute participant co-teaches a Summer Adventures in Literacy (SAIL) class.

Attendees at P.K. Yonge’s 2009 Teacher Scholars Reading Academy observe an institute participant as she co-teaches a Summer Adventures in Literacy (SAIL) class. Photo courtesy Marisa Stukey.

For students, school’s out for the summer. For teachers, it’s an opportune time to step back into the classroom – but as students. 

Starting this month, P.K. Yonge laboratory school will hold its professional development series for the eighth summer in a row. Although the first program, the “Literacy Design Collaborative Summer Institute,” of the summer series is filled, elementary and secondary teachers can still register for the upcoming “Transforming Practice: Enacting the Common Core” institute or the supplemental Teacher Scholars Reading Academy. 

“Transforming Practice” is a one-week institute held from June 17 to 21 that focuses on best practices for reading instruction based on the state’s new Common Core Standards. This program is catered to teachers of kindergarten through 12th grade. Discussion topics will include academic vocabulary and balancing informational and literary texts in the classroom.

The “Transforming Practice” institute is also the first segment of a three-week Teacher Scholars Reading Academy, which will provide teachers with intensive, hands-on professional learning in evidence-based reading instruction. The focus of the academy, which runs from June 17 to July 3, is on reading in kindergarten through third grade.

After a week of acquiring teaching strategies in “Transforming Practice,” academy participants will co-teach P.K. Yonge’s Summer Adventures in Literacy (SAIL), an intensive summer reading program for young struggling readers, during the final two weeks of the academy. In the afternoons, teachers will reflect on their practices and receive additional training. 

“So often, teachers learn something new, but never have the ability to watch it in action or practice it themselves. The Teacher Scholars Reading Academy provides teachers with an opportunity to learn like we want our students to learn – by doing it,” said Marisa Stukey, P.K. Yonge’s curriculum coordinator for kindergarten through third grade. “It’s an incredible learning experience that is sure to change the way you teach reading.”

On the final two days of the academy, July 2 and 3, there will be a two-day leadership session for school principals.

The “Transforming Practice” institute and the Teacher Scholars Reading Academy will take place between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. during the weekdays. Registration for the one-week “Transforming Practice” institute is $395 per participant, and $795 per teacher or reading coach for the three-week Teacher Scholars Reading Academy. Teachers and coaches are encouraged to form school-based teams of four to register for the academy. Registration for the two-day principal leadership session is $125 per principal. Registration costs include materials.

Each professional development session will be led by Stukey, P.K. Yonge fourth- and fifth-grade curriculum coordinator Ashley Pennypacker Hill, and teachers from the SAIL program. All sessions will take place at P. K. Yonge Developmental Research School on 1080 S.W. 11th St. in Gainesville.

To register and for more information, visit http://outreach.pkyonge.ufl.edu or contact Marisa Stukey at mstukey@pky.ufl.edu.


P.K. Yonge high schoolers visit Chinese partner school during spring break


P.K. Yonge and NJEIS students group together before leaving for their overnight stays. Photo by Tom Tahlier.


On March 23, 16 excited (and somewhat travel-weary) globetrotters from P.K. Yonge set foot in Shanghai for what would be an enlightening and life-changing week in China. Thirteen high school students and three chaperones from the UF K-12 laboratory school spent spring break week in Nanjing to launch the first concrete, student-focused stage of a new partnership between P.K. Yonge and Nanjing Experimental International School (NJEIS). 

Savannah Branch, P.K. Yonge 9th grader, her partner Kitty and a friend leave for Kitty's house on a Friday afternoon.

Savannah Branch, P.K. Yonge 9th grader, her partner Kitty and a friend leave for Kitty’s house on a Friday afternoon. Photos by Tom Tahlier.

The Blue Wave students experienced a variety of cultural treats, including Chinese food, classes in Chinese language and calligraphy, kite flying, and a range of historical sites in Nanjing. 

The most memorable part of the trip, though, was the students’ weekend with NJEIS students and their families. They got to experience Chinese culture more authentically than most international travelers dream of. When the chaperones reunited with the students, they were met with an explosion of voices, laughter and animated stories about each student’s unique experiences with their partner families. Their experiences included hiking, grocery shopping, visiting theme parks, and getting a brief glimpse of Chinese family life. 

Paige Crumpton and Luisa Schlafke pose with a structure in China.

Paige Crumpton and Luisa Schlafke pose with a structure in China.

PKY students handled the transition from west to east with aplomb. Their willingness to experiment and try different things was commendable. For example, one student reflected, “Rabbit doesn’t taste like chicken, but snake does!”

Overall, each traveler expressed heightened empathy for foreigners, personal confidence, awareness of how fortunate they are, the importance of family, and a sense that their futures do not have to be restricted to the borders of their home country. 

P.K. Yonge chaperones returned eager to take the next steps in the exchange relationship with NJEIS. The two schools are currently working on NJEIS student visits to Gainesville and already planning for the next PKY group from to visit China. P.K. Yonge chaperones and administration see the relationship with NJEIS brimming with possibilities, especially through meaningful cross-cultural connections between the Gainesville and Nanjing communities. 

P.K. Yonge students experience and learn about Chinese tea culture at the Yu Garden in Shanghai.

P.K. Yonge students experience and learn about Chinese tea culture at the Yu Garden in Shanghai.

In the words of a NJEIS student, “Even though our hair, eyes and skin colors are different, our hearts are the same.”









COE researchers out in force at AERA’s massive annual meeting

(Click here for PDF listing of UFCOE presentations)

For years, the massive annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association has been a hotbed of the latest research and new ideas about teaching-and-learning practices and policies. This year, some 65 UF College of Education faculty and students participated in the 2013 meeting April 27-May 1 in San Francisco, joining 14,000 other education scholars from 75 nations. 

This year’s meeting theme focused on the relationships of education and poverty—how education theory, research, policy and praxis contribute to alleviating economic, intellectual and moral poverty.

Mirka Koro-Ljungberg...4 AERA presentations

Mirka Koro-Ljungberg              …4 AERA presentations

More UF education scholars, from multiple disciplines, attend AERA’s annual meeting than any other professional gathering. The EduGator contingent in San Francisco included 34 college faculty and 31 graduate students participating in presentations, panel discussions and association-related business meetings.

The UF presentations included hot education topics such as:

  • The effect of charter schools on student achievement
  • How neighborhoods contribute to children’s language and literacy development
  • Games and simulation courses in education technology
  • Analyzing the urban middle school transition and persistently disciplined students
  • Does teacher preparation for English Language Learners matter?
  • Leadership standards and accountability in Florida: Do they address poverty and social justice issues?
  • Supply and demand context for special-education teacher preparation reform
  • Writing instruction: What do preservice teachers know?

The busiest COE faculty attendees were Walter Leite and Mirka Koro-Ljungberg (both from research and evaluation methods), with four presentations each. Mary Brownell (special education), Ester de Jong (ESOL/bilingual education), Bernie Oliver (education leadership) and Albert Ritzhaupt (education technology) each made three presentations.

The complete AERA annual meeting program is available online at www.aera.net

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WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137


Professor’s book ties origin of science fairs to call for more STEM education

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new book by a University of Florida education professor about science fairs and other extracurricular school science programs hits the shelves just as education in science, technology, engineering and math – the STEM disciplines – continues making headlines.

Sevan Terzian’s newly published book, Science Education and Citizenship, gives insight into the growing effort to improve science education by uncovering the history of science fairs, clubs and talent searches, such as Florida’s 58th annual State Science and Engineering Fair, set for March 26-28 in Lakeland.


Terzian, shown teaching in his Norman Hall classroom at the University of Florida.

“Science fairs, clubs and talent searches are familiar fixtures in American education, yet little has been known or written about why they began and grew in popularity,” said Terzian, an associate professor in social foundations of education at the University of Florida’s College of Education. He’s also associate director of graduate studies for the college’s School of Teaching and Learning.

His book, published in January by Palgrave Macmillan of New York City, traces the origins and civic purposes of American extracurricular programs dedicated to science between the 1920s and ‘50s.

“I think science fairs, clubs and talent searches are part of the rituals of school life,” Terzian said. “But it occurred to me that I did not know where they came from and why. When I began looking into that, that’s when it got exciting.”

Terzian said he found that the earliest programs between the 1920s and ‘30s were dedicated to encouraging students to understand the processes of scientific investigation so they would become more knowledgeable and involved American citizens

World War II, however, changed the landscape of extracurricular science activities. Terzian discovered that, as the United States mobilized for war, these science programs modified their activities to achieve a new overarching purpose: “to find the best and the brightest kids who could apply their expertise so the U.S. could win the war,” he said.

“The message these kids were hearing was, ‘We need you in order to win the war, to have a strong national defense, and to help the nation’s economy,’” Terzian said. “They would do all this by applying scientific knowledge to weapons or new technological innovations that would lead to material comforts for consumers.”

This goal continued well into the 1950s, and is still evident today, he said.

Terzian ‘s findings give perspective on the current movement to bolster science teaching and student achievement.

“Although we can all agree that high achievement in science is desirable in American education, we may not always spend enough time thinking why we think so,” Terzian said. “What exactly is it that we hope improved science education will give us?”

Terzian believes STEM education can serve many purposes, including the defense- and innovation-oriented reason that pervaded science education during World War II and the ensuing atomic age.

“STEM education should not be only for the future scientists,” Terzian said. “STEM education has the potential to cultivate rational thought, to encourage critical questioning, and even to foster empathy, which I think are essential characteristics of good citizens in a democratic society.”

To review or purchase Terzian’s new book, Science Education and Citizenship, visit the Palgrave Macmillan website.

: Sevan Terzian, UF College of Education, sterzian@coe.ufl.edu, 352-273-4216
Writer: Alexa Lopez, news and communications, UF College of Education; akl@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4449
Media Relations: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137


US News rates COE first in state; five specialties nationally ranked

UF’s College of Education remained the top ranked education college in Florida and among public institutions in the Southeastern Conference, while its special education and counselor education programs maintained top 10 national ratings in their specialties in the latest U.S. News and World Report rankings of America’s Best Graduate Schools, which were announced Tuesday (March 12) by the magazine.

Three other UF education specialties gained top 20 ratings: in elementary teacher education (18th), curriculum and instruction (18th) and education administration and supervision (20th).

The COE ranked 30th among the nation’s public education colleges and 40th overall, with the college’s scores improving in five of six quality measures assessed in the rankings survey and matched last year’s score in another category. U.S. News ranked UF’s special education and counselor education programs sixth and eighth, respectively, in their specialty areas.

“We say every year, whether we rise or drop, that we don’t live or die by the U.S. News rankings. They are largely subjective and often there’s not much difference in schools rated within five to ten spots of each other,” said UF education Dean Glenn Good.  “But many prospective students and the general public pay attention to the rankings, so we must, as well.

“Our improved scores in almost every category show we’re heading in the right direction. Last year we climbed 18 spots in the rankings. We’re aiming for a national standing in the top 10 in the next few years, and we think we can get there by continuing to assess and improve our programs.”

The college’s special education and counselor education programs consistently rank in the top 10 and often among the top five nationally. Counselor education has previously held the top spot in the U.S. News rankings (in 1997).

The U.S. News rankings are calculated based on a weighted average of nine measures, eight of which are listed on the U.S. News website listings. Data on the remaining category—percent of faculty holding funded research awards—were not immediately available.

The College of Education matched its score from last year in peer assessment (by a poll of U.S. education school deans and graduate studies program heads), which accounted for one-fourth of the total weighted calculation, and improved over last year in five of six other categories. Those improvements occurred in:

  • Assessment by school superintendents nationwide (weighted by 15 percent)
  • Doctoral application acceptance rate (6 percent),
  • Doctoral degrees granted per faculty member (5 percent),
  • Total research expenditures (15 percent)
  • Average research expenditures per faculty member (15 percent).

The college’s doctoral student-to-faculty ratio (weighted by 4.5 percent) increased from three students to six students per faculty member; this was the only category in which the college did not improve or match. In another category gauging student selectivity (weighted 12 percent), U.S. News used a new scale for GRE scores, making comparisons with last year’s average scores invalid.

Good cited dramatic increases in external research funding as cause for optimism in improving the college’s future national standing.

“College research expenditures have tripled over the past five years, reaching nearly $18 million in 2012. That’s 20 percent more than the previous year and works out to more than a quarter-million-dollars in funding for each faculty member,” Good said. “Our faculty scholars produce vital knowledge that is improving professional education practices across the state, nation and world.”

The complete U.S. News Best Graduate Schools 2014 rankings data are available online at: http://www.usnews.com/.

SOURCE: Dean Glenn Good, UF College of Education, ggood@ufl.edu, 352-273-4135
WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137


UF launches free Algebra Nation prep tool at 2nd Florida high school

GAINESVILLE, FL—Andrew Jackson High School in Jacksonville on March 4 became Florida’s second high school to adopt a novel program called Algebra Nation, a free online preparation tool created through the University of Florida to help students prepare for a required algebra end-of-course exam.

More than 40 percent of Florida middle and high school students failed the spring 2012 Algebra 1 end-of-course exam. In many high-need schools, the failure rate topped 80 percent. Florida students must pass the test to earn a high school diploma.

To help students succeed on the exam, the UF Lastinger Center for Learning, part of the College of Education, has joined forces with Study Edge, a Gainesville education technology firm, to create Algebra Nation, a research-proven, online end-of-course exam preparation resource. The program gives students 24/7 access to help through a collection of free tools from video tutorials and live teacher support to an interactive “wall” like on Facebook, all geared toward helping students boost their algebra skills.

Gov. Rick Scott had participated Jan. 25 in UF’s first Florida launch of Algebra Nation at St. Petersburg’s Dixie Hollins High School.

On Monday, Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett and Florida State Board of Education Chairman Gary Chartrand participated in a morning ceremony marking the Duval County launch of Algebra Nation at Jackson High, the state’s lowest ranked high school in the midst of a multi-organization, multi-year effort to turn the school around.

“Algebra is a key STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subject,” Lastinger Center director Don Pemberton said. “It serves as a gatekeeper to success in high school and beyond.”

To help students succeed on the 2013 end-of-course exam, UF education professors have dissected the material tested on the exam and aligned Algebra Nation with the latest state standards.

“Algebra Nation is based on the latest research and best practices,” Study Edge director Ethan Fieldman said.

Algebra Nation is the first phase of a planned campaign to accelerate learning throughout Florida. UF and Study Edge officials say they plan to develop and roll out Geometry Nation, Biology Nation and other end-of-course exam resources next year.

Read more about Algebra Nation here. You also can view the News4Jax television news report on the Jacksonville launch.

Contact: Boaz Dvir, UF Lastinger Center for Learning, bdvir@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-0289

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PKY-COE host gathering to map out transformation of middle school science education

Bolstered by a $5 million grant last year from the National Science Foundation, a collaborating faculty research team from P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School and UF’s College of Education has been studying how to transform middle school science curricula and improve student learning. Team leaders recently hosted 40 teachers and administrators from 10 partnering, rural school districts at P.K. Yonge to discuss strategies for meeting those goals.

The gathering was the first of a quarterly series of meetings scheduled for the five-year project, named U-FUTuRES, or University of Florida Unites Teachers to Reform Education in Science. To facilitate the transformation effort, the researchers have created a Science Teacher Leadership Institute to train teacher-leaders to lead district-wide implementation of a new, research-proven, middle school science curriculum.

UF science education professor Rose Pringle works with students in a P.K. Yonge middle school science class.

The researchers’ aim is to narrow the gap in science learning between American students and their peers in higher performing nations.

At the core of this initiative is the new curriculum called IQWST, or Investigating and Questioning our World through Science and Technology. P.K. Yonge and several other institute-partnering schools are already pioneering the new middle school science curriculum design, which has students conducting daily investigations of science phenomena, learning how to use scientific reasoning to support their claims, drawing on past science learning and experiences, and developing critical thinking skills.

During last month’s institute meeting, the developers and researchers behind IQWST—P.K.  Yonge director Lynda Hayes, UF science educator Rose Pringle, and Joe Krajcik from Michigan State University—explained how to implement the new curriculum, as well as how to support existing science teachers in Palm Beach County.

Hayes is the principal investigator of the NSF grant; Pringle and Krajcik are co-PIs. Krajcik told the visiting educators that the IQWST curriculum will align with the more rigid K-12 science standards now being developed by a collaborative of more than half of the states.

“Visiting faculty left impressed by P.K. Yonge students’ use of scientific terms, their critical thinking skills, and the level of activity in the P.K. Yonge science classes,” Hayes said.

Now in the third year of using the IQWST curriculum, P.K. Yonge science instructors in the middle grades report significant improvements in student learning in their classes. According to Hayes, school faculty consider last year’s 10 percent increase in the number of students scoring at level 3 or above (on a scale of 5) on the 8th grade FCAT science test a positive trend resulting from their efforts to change the way their science curriculum works.

“Partnerships supported by this project show promise in a broad scale transformation of middle school science education to meet the needs of today’s students and to plant seeds for tomorrow’s scientists,” Hayes said.


Video captures UFCOE-Thailand education connection

(WATCH THIS VIDEO) … UF-Thailand Classroom Connection

University of Florida social studies methods doctoral student JASON SCHIPPER and elementary education students in the “Social Studies for Diverse Learners” class he teaches are featured in this new flipcam video release. Schipper used a scholarship he received from the Kappa Delta Pi Educational Foundation to fund research and technology to connect his class virtually with elementary school classrooms in Thailand, where he once taught. Schipper’s preservice teacher candidates interact virtually with the Thai students as they develop lesson plans and assignments for the Thai elementary classrooms.

Schipper demonstrates to his students the proper Thai gesture for a casual greeting that they would later use on a video to the Thai elementary students. (Photos by Larry Lansford)