, ,

Kramer named co-director of Institute of Higher Education

The University of Florida College of Education has named assistant professor of higher education Dennis Kramer to the new position of co-director of its UF Institute of Higher Education (IHE)—an appointment college officials say “further strengthens the institute’s commitment to higher-education policy research and scholarship.”

KRAMER, Dennis3***

Dennis Kramer

Kramer, an emerging scholar in state higher-education policy evaluation and economics, had worked as the institute’s associate director since he joined the UF faculty last August. In his expanded role, he will steer the institute’s research agenda and partnerships with Florida postsecondary institutions, and oversee externally funded research collaborations, and legislative and policy research projects.

Longtime IHE director Dale Campbell will remain as the other co-director, heading the institute’s strategic initiatives involving community college leadership development and support of best practices through the annual meeting of the Community College Futures Assembly, a national consortium of community college leaders founded by Campbell. He also will continue to coordinate UF’s higher education administration doctoral programs, which are recognized nationally as a leader in two-year and four-year postsecondary policy development and administration.

“I am extremely pleased that Dr. Kramer will be joining me to further strengthen the Institute of Higher Education’s role as the premier thought leader in the state and nation on critical issues in higher education policy and practice,” Campbell said. “He brings a wealth of knowledge in the area of intersecting public policy development with institutional decision-making.”

Kramer joined the UF faculty after receiving his doctorate in higher education economics and policy evaluation from the University of Georgia. He previously held a faculty appointment at the University of Virginia and also worked for three years as the senior research and policy analyst with the Georgia Department of Education, where he managed Georgia’s education policy development and evaluation research.

His research focuses on the economics of higher education, the evaluation of federal and state policy adoption, and the impact of state decisions on community colleges and four-year institutions. He specializes in advanced quantitative research methods for studying education-related policy questions and program evaluation. He has authored a number of scholarly articles on the economics of higher education, the role of financing of intercollegiate athletics, and the impact if financial aid policies on student decision-making.

Kramer cited the IHE’s longstanding reputation as an innovator and trend-setter in higher education administration as key to his joining the UF faculty. The late James Wattenbarger, UF professor emeritus and founding director of the IHE, is widely recognized as the “father of Florida’s community college system,” while Campbell has served as director for many years and steered the formation of the Futures Assembly consortium of state community college leaders and its national Bellwethers Awards program. UF’s higher education administration academic program is one of the inaugural Kellogg Foundation-funded Community College Leadership Programs.

“It is truly an honor to carry on the legacy of leadership established by Dr. Wattenbarger and furthered by Dr. Campbell, serving both the state and nation,” Kramer said. “Working with Dr. Campbell, we will continue to enhance the institute’s scholarly productivity by connecting our research with national postsecondary policy interests and local institutional needs.

   SOURCE: Dennis Kramer, Ph.D.; 352-273-4315; dkramer@coe.ufl.edu
   SOURCE; Dale Campbell, Ph.D.; 352-273-4300; dfc@coe.ufl.edu
   WRITER: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu



Online master’s in reading education program ranked 2nd in U.S. by BestSchools.org

The UF College of Education’s online Master of Education degree program in “Reading: Language and Literacy” has been ranked second in the nation by TheBestSchools.org in its listing of The 25 Best Online Master in Reading Degree Programs.

UF's online master's in reading program is nationally accredited and addresses the standards and competencies required of Florida educator certification for teaching K-12 reading. Pictured, depicting the youthful pleasures of reading, is a bronze-painted, life-like statue by American sculptor Seward Johnson that was on display in UF's Norman Hall courtyard in the summer and fall of 2011.

UF’s online master’s in reading program is nationally accredited and addresses the standards and competencies required of Florida educator certification for teaching K-12 reading. Pictured, depicting the youthful pleasures of reading, is a bronze-painted, life-like statue by American sculptor Seward Johnson that was on display in UF’s Norman Hall courtyard in the summer and fall of 2011. (File photo)

TheBestSchools.org is a popular independent website for college information seekers.

UF’s reading education program joins two other COE online master’s degrees ranked highly in their specialty areas by the Web-based resource: education leadership at No. 5 and education technology at No. 9. The college’s overall online teacher education master’s program ranked sixth among public institutions and 13th including public and private institutions.

The website also ranks UF’s overall distance learning program second in the nation behind the Penn State World Campus.

Rankings are based on academic excellence, range of available classes, faculty strength, other rankings and reputation.

UF education professor Zhihui Fang, who coordinates the M.Ed. in reading program, said he was “obviously thrilled” with being ranked just behind a similar program at the University of Kansas.

“The program has received rave reviews from its graduates,” Fang said, adding that the lofty rating “is a testament to the high quality of work that our faculty has maintained and the high caliber of students we’ve been able to recruit.”

Student admissions selectivity—an indicator of high quality student enrollment—for the COE’s overall online learning program was rated best in the nation in January by U.S. News & World Report. The program was ranked 13th overall.

Fang said the master’s reading program – which requires 36 credit hours in areas such as diagnosis and remediation of reading difficulties, language arts, children’s literature, technology and literacy, and teaching English as a second language — was developed seven years ago to support prospective and practicing teachers in promoting literacy growth of K-12 learners across all subject areas.

The program is nationally accredited and addresses the standards and competencies required of Florida educator certification in Reading K-12.

, ,

UF researchers call for immediate end to corporal punishment in all Florida schools

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A team of University of Florida researchers is calling for an immediate end to paddling students in all state public schools, citing its new study of classroom disciplinary trends that depicts corporal punishment as violent and outdated, and a source of complications such as increased dropout rates and lawsuits.

CP Dashboard

In a monograph sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center, UF doctoral student Sungur Gurel (left) and College of Education faculty researchers Brianna Kennedy-Lewis and Joseph Gagnon call for abolishment of corporal punishment in Florida schools.

The team’s 33-page research report shows corporal punishment persists in nearly half of Florida school districts, mostly in the state’s rural northern counties, and “it’s the youngest, most impressionable children – elementary school students – who most often are subjected” to paddling.

“Paddling is archaic,” said Joseph Gagnon, a UF College of Education associate professor of special education and one of the report’s three authors. “We need to spread awareness that scientific evidence increasingly justifies abolishing corporal punishment in favor of more effective, positive ways to manage classroom behavior.”

Gagnon said most current research shows paddling has little or no positive long-term effect on students, can lower their self-esteem, and instill hostility and rage without curbing the undesired behavior, “yet there are still pockets of Florida and other states where corporal punishment continues to be used.”

Paddling in schools has been banned in 31 states, and the UF report cites 16 national expert organizations that have categorically opposed and discredited corporal punishment. They include the National Education Association, American Bar Association, American Psychological Association, American Medical Association, and national associations for both elementary and secondary school principals. The study report also lists nearly 100 published research citations and references.

The UF study was funded by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an internationally known civil rights and social justice activist organization based in Montgomery, Ala. The SPLC is pushing for the elimination of corporal punishment in school systems in Florida and across the nation.

Tania Galloni, an attorney with the SPLC’s Miami office, said the emotional and psychological damage done to a child who has been paddled is reason enough to end corporal punishment.

“(Paddling) is a tightly controlled form of school-sponsored violence, and it undermines the notion that a school is supposed to be a place where children feel safe,” Galloni said.

In Florida during the 2012-2013 school year, 28 of 67 school districts administered corporal punishment, according to the Florida Department of Education.

The UF report shows the Suwannee County district, with a student population of nearly 6,000 at the time of the survey, led the state with 359 paddling instances. Holmes County, with more than 3,300 students enrolled, was next with 306 instances.

Madison and Holmes counties also had the highest percentage of students experiencing corporal punishment during the 2010-2011 school year, according to the UF study. Each showed nearly 10 percent of its students being paddled. Washington County was third on the list with almost 9 percent of 3,485 students being paddled. The remaining 25 school districts using corporal punishment, on average, paddled less than 2 percent of their students, with eight districts reporting rates below 1 percent.

Gagnon and co-author Brianna L. Kennedy-Lewis, an assistant professor of curriculum, teaching and teacher education, have presented their research findings to Florida legislators and are working with the SPLC to target other education leaders, policymakers and the general public to raise awareness for the need to end paddling.

Gagnon, Kennedy-Lewis and Sungur Gurel, a doctoral student and statistician, spent eight months researching and writing their findings and recommendations. Gagnon evaluated public data on Florida schools’ use of corporal punishment and similar approaches to discipline. He also surveyed Florida principals to identify the use of preventive strategies and other non-violent, research-proven approaches to student behavior management.

Kennedy-Lewis interviewed 36 school administrators representing 27 Florida school districts that allowed corporal punishment.

“We were trying to find out what drives the whole punitive approach,” Kennedy-Lewis said. “As it turns out, many school administrators would just as soon do away with this type of punishment.”

The researchers made six recommendations, including abolishing corporal punishment at the federal, state and local levels, and closely scrutinizing the disproportionate punishment of males, African American students, those with disabilities and other vulnerable student groups.

They also urged schools to implement or broaden proactive, research-proven strategies for handling discipline without punitive paddling, such as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). The PBIS approach involves tailored interventions for individuals and specific student groups that, in addition to social and emotional skills training, can include counseling programs and peer tutoring.

   UF SOURCE: Joseph Gagnon, associate professor, UF College of Education; jgagnon@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4262
   UF SOURCE: Brianna L. Kennedy-Lewis, assistant professor, UF College of Education; bkennedy@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4041
   SPLC SOURCE: Tania Galloni, attorney, Southern Poverty Law Center; Tania.galloni@splcenter.org; 305-537-0573
   WRITER: Stephen Kindland, staff writer, UF College of Education; skindland@coe.ufl.edu: 352-273-4449
   MEDIA LIAISON: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137


COE online program rated best in nation for student selectivity; jumps to 13th overall in U.S. News rankings

elearning-iconGAINESVILLE, Fla.—The University of Florida College of Education has one of America’s best online master’s degree programs in teacher education, and some of the nation’s best graduate students, according to national rankings announced Wednesday (Jan. 7) by U.S. News & World Report.

The college’s distance learning program was rated 13th in the magazine’s 2015 Best Online Graduate Education Programs survey, an improvement of 34 positions over last year’s ranking of 47th.

U.S. News rated the COE’s “admissions selectivity”—an indicator of the high quality of its online graduate students—as tops in the nation.

“The college’s substantial spike in the rankings is well-earned recognition for our faculty and online support and instructional development teams. Their goal from the start has been to create a superb online learning experience for students of the same high quality as our on-campus offerings,” said COE spokesman Larry Lansford. “It’s what students expect from the University of Florida.”

Lansford said the college’s top national ranking in student selectivity “reflects the high bar we set to attract and enroll students with proven aptitudes, ambitions and accomplishments who can handle the demands of rigorous coursework.”

“Awarding online degrees judiciously will enhance the legitimacy of our graduates in the job market. Our ultimate goal is to develop master educators who can lead transformations in teacher practice and leadership that ultimately improve student learning,” he said.

The COE’s online program also scored high marks for new student retention rates: retaining 99 percent of new students in 2013 and 95 percent in 2014. U.S. News also cited the program’s on-the-job, cohort instructional approach as a distinguishing characteristic. Lansford said the “job-embedded” feature allows practicing educators to earn graduate degrees in education and teacher leadership while remaining on the job.

UF was one of three education colleges in Florida with online graduate programs ranked among the nation’s top 20 by U.S. News. The others were Florida State University (at No. 2) and the University of South Florida (20th).

UF also was one of the top two highest ranking education schools, along with Auburn, in the Southeastern Conference.

Among all UF graduate schools, only the fourth-ranked Hough Graduate School of Business rated higher in its specialty than the College of Education.

This is the third year that U.S. News has collected data on distance learning programs in higher education. Besides admissions selectivity, which accounted for 15 percent of the weighted ratings, the magazine ranked teacher education programs based on wide-ranging criteria that also included student engagement, faculty credentials and training, student services and technology, and peer assessment.

You can view the complete online graduate education rankings and accompanying data on the U.S. News website at: http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/education/rankings?int=a05609.

Two of the college’s individual online graduate degree programs–education technology and educational leadership–have received top 10 rankings over the past year from BestSchools.org, a higher education website for college information seekers.

    SOURCE: Tom Dana, associate dean, UF College of Education; 352-273-4134; tdana@coe.ufl.edu;
    MEDIA CONTACT: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu;


Ed. tech’s online master’s program ranked 9th in U.S.

EDT group for post

Faculty members of the College of Education’s online education technology master’s degree program include, from left to right, Albert Ritzhaupt, Kara Dawson, Pavlo “Pasha” Antonenko, Swapna Kumar and Carole Beal.

The UF College of Education’s online master’s degree program in education technology – which provides education professionals with the knowledge and expertise needed to use educational technologies to improve learning and performance in face-to-face, online and blended environments — has joined the COE’s education leadership online graduate program on a list of top 10 rankings nationwide.

TheBestSchools.org, a higher education website for college information seekers, recently placed the education technology program at No. 9 on its list of “The 25 Best Online Master in Educational Technology Degree Programs” — just weeks after giving the COE’s education leadership program a No. 5 ranking in its specialty area.

The site also ranks the University of Florida’s overall distance learning program at No. 2 in the nation behind the Penn State World Campus. Rankings for the two online master’s programs are based on academic excellence, range of available classes, faculty strength, other rankings and reputation.

Meanwhile, education leadership faculty member Bruce Mousa, who helped establish the online education leadership master’s degree program two years ago, has been using his program’s No. 5 ranking as a marketing tool.

“We tell everyone that we’ve got a flexible, online course that maintains high standards set by UF,” said Mousa, whose program prepares working teachers and other professionals to become school principals.

The complete rankings can be found online at http://goo.gl/mrRzKZ.

Source: Albert Ritzhaupt, UF associate professor of education technology; phone (352) 273-4180; aritzhaupt@coe.ufl.edu.
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.


COE-UF contingent makes splash at inaugural early childhood symposium


Posing for a group shot are some of the 40 participants from the College of Education and other UF colleges at the Early Child Symposium Nov. 11 in Charleston.

Posing for a group shot are some of the 40 participants from the College of Education and other UF colleges at the Early Childhood Symposium Nov. 11 in Charleston.

Early childhood faculty researchers, postdoctoral fellows and students from the College of Education and other UF colleges associated with UF’s Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies formed a substantial presence last week at an inaugural symposium in Charleston, S.C., focused on supporting young children and their families.

Anita Zucker (BAE '72) welcomes symposium participants.

Anita Zucker (BAE ’72) welcomes symposium participants.

Some 40 members of the Gator Nation were among an estimated 300 scholars, practitioners and advocates participating in the Tri-County Cradle-to-Career Collaborative’s Early Childhood Symposium Nov. 11 in Charleston. The University of Florida was one of the sponsors of the event, which carried the theme: “Mobilize to Move the Dial on Early Childhood Indicators.”

COE alumna Anita Zucker (BAE ’72), a business and civic leader in the Charleston area and a major supporter of UF’s early childhood efforts, chairs the TCCC board of directors and invited scholars from her UF alma mater to participate in the symposium. Just last month, Zucker, a former teacher and the current CEO and board chair of The InterTech Group, a Charleston-based global manufacturing conglomerate, provided the leadership gift of $5 million to bolster a comprehensive initiative at UF focused on optimizing early childhood development and learning experiences. UF’s Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies, based in the College of Education, has been named for Zucker in recognition of her generosity.

Patricia Snyder (center), Maureen Conroy (right),, shown with moderator John Read, helped set the stage with their morning  conversation.

Patricia Snyder (center), Maureen Conroy (right), shown with moderator John Read, helped set the stage with their morning conversation.

COE professors Patricia Snyder and Maureen Conroy, the director and co-director, respectively, of the Anita Zucker CEECS, helped set the stage for the symposium conversations by highlighting evidence-informed practices and strategies that “move the dial” on early childhood indicators. UF alumnus David Lawrence Jr., president of The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation of Miami and the namesake of the UF endowed chair in early childhood studies held by Snyder, was the keynote luncheon speaker.

Early childhood specialists from the Tri-County Charleston area and across South Carolina facilitated other discussions on vital topics including: assessing for school readiness; supporting families with young children; providing health and mental health services for young children; early intervention for children with disabilities; and the role of higher education, government and community agencies in supporting young children and their families.

“We were so honored to partner with Anita Zucker and the TCCC in their inaugural Early Childhood Symposium. We look forward to future symposia and ongoing collaborations,” Snyder said.

    SOURCE: Patricia Snyder, professor and David Lawrence Jr. Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Studies, and director, UF Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies; 352-273-4291; patriciasnyder@coe.ufl.edu
    SOURCE: Maureen Conroy, professor and co-director, UF Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies; 352-273-4382; mconroy@coe.ufl.edu
    WRITER: Larry Lansford, communications director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu;
, ,

COE awarded $1 million to boost skills of Florida’s early learning educators

GAINESVILLE, FLA. — The Jim Moran Foundation has awarded a $1 million grant to the University of Florida College of Education to provide access to the latest teaching tools for the state’s 55,000 early learning educators.

Toddlers get plenty of engaging, early learning experiences at UF's Baby Gator Child Development and Research Center.

Early Learning Florida dovetails with one of UF’s priority research initiatives to “optimize” early childhood learning and healthy child development. Pictured: a teacher engages a toddler at UF’s Baby Gator Child Development and Research Center. (File photo)

The funding will boost the college’s transformational Early Learning Florida program, a first-of-its-kind online professional development system for early learning practitioners.

“We’re thrilled and grateful,” said Don Pemberton, director of the UF Lastinger Center for Learning, the college’s innovation incubator that is implementing the program. “We’ll use this money to improve learning and development for hundreds of thousands of young children by providing new tools and resources to build the skills of early learning professionals.”

Built through community support, Early Learning Florida offers online and face-to-face instruction and continuing education with the latest course content, plus new certification programs for technical assistance coaches. State-funded stipends for early learning providers who successfully complete the course also are made available.

“By partnering with the Lastinger Center on this innovative initiative, we are helping create a standard for early learning that equips classroom teachers with the knowledge and know-how to provide all our children with a solid foundation for future academic success,” said Jan Moran, chairman and president of The Jim Moran Foundation, based in Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Early Learning Florida dovetails with one of UF’s priority research initiatives to “optimize” early childhood learning and development. Early childhood studies are a vital component of UF’s preeminence push — backed by the Florida Legislature — to become one of the nation’s top 10 public research universities.

Don Pemberton

Don Pemberton

Pemberton said The Jim Moran Foundation grant – which will be dispersed in equal payments over the next three years – also serves as an endorsement of the foundation’s belief in the importance of early learning.

“We are humbled to receive such a generous investment in our work from a foundation that honors the memory and extends the legacy of one of Florida’s greatest entrepreneurs and humanitarians,” he said.

The Jim Moran Foundation is one of four major philanthropic organizations that, together, have donated more than $3 million over multiple years to support Early Learning Florida.

The other three contributors are the Helios Education Foundation ($900,000), which supports education reform in Florida and Arizona; the Florida-based Lastinger Family Foundation ($500,000); and $600,000 from an Ohio-based foundation that has asked to remain anonymous.

About The Jim Moran Foundation
Founded by automotive pioneer Jim Moran, the mission of The Jim Moran Foundation is to improve the quality of life for the youth and families of Florida through the support of innovative programs and opportunities that meet the ever-changing needs of the community. The Foundation has invested more than $50 million in education, elder care, family strengthening, and youth transitional living initiatives since its inception in 2000 — with efforts currently focused in Broward, Palm Beach and Duval counties. Through a long-term grant agreement, The Foundation’s significant funders are JM Family Enterprises, Inc., and its subsidiaries, including Southeast Toyota Distributors, LLC. It is located at 100 Jim Moran Blvd., Deerfield Beach, Fla. 33442. To learn more, visit www.jimmoranfoundation.org or call (954) 429-2122.

About the UF Lastinger Center for Learning
Part of the University of Florida, the Lastinger Center is the College of Education’s 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.

UF Source: Don Pemberton, director, UF Lastinger Center for Learning; 352-273-4103; dpemberton@coe.ufl.edu
UF Media Contact: Larry Lansford, director, UF College of Education; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu
Writer: Stephen Kindland, staff writer, UF College of Education; skindland@coe.ufl.edu

, ,

Dean Good named to elite Abu Dhabi teacher education panel

UF College of Education Dean Glenn Good has been appointed to the blue-ribbon International Advisory Panel for the Emirates College for Advanced Education (ECAE), a teacher education and school development center affiliated with the Abu Dhabi Education Council.

Dean Glenn E. Good

Dean Glenn E. Good

Good joins an elite four-member panel that also includes education leaders from the Institute of Education at the University of London, the National Institute of Education-Singapore, and the American Educational Research Association (AERA).

His appointment occurs as UF’s College of Education and its Lastinger Center for Learning are adding a third year to a formal partnership with the Abu Dhabi group that is yielding unprecedented teacher advancement and exchange programs between the two institutions. The alliance supports efforts by the United Arab Emirates to prepare a fresh generation of educators for the new economy of Abu Dhabi.

Dean Good has accepted several key leadership posts over the past year, including committee and panel positions with the American Educational Research Association and the American Association of Universities.

, , , ,

Alumna makes lead gift for $10M early childhood initiative

Anita Zucker, a passionate advocate of early childhood education, will provide a leadership gift of $5 million to bolster a comprehensive initiative at the University of Florida focused on optimizing early childhood development and learning experiences.

Anita Zucker (BAE '72)

Anita Zucker (BAE ’72)

Zucker’s gift – the largest from an individual to the College of Education – will be combined with another $5 million in Preeminence faculty and program support from the university over the next several years. This $10 million investment will help further position UF as a national and world leader in understanding how young children develop and learn in the context of their families and communities and help create programs that enhance early supports and learning. UF’s Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies, housed in the College of Education, will be named for Zucker, a UF education alumna, in recognition of her generosity.

The new funding supports an interdisciplinary team of faculty, fellows, doctoral students, and local, state, national and international partners working to establish an innovative model in early learning. Studies show that nurturing and responsive interactions and quality early learning experiences during a child’s first five years can produce a lifetime of benefits.

Zucker, a former schoolteacher, has long been interested in early childhood. In 2011, she established a professorship in UF’s College of Education dedicated to early childhood. She also sponsored the Anita Zucker Alumni Challenge, in which she matched dollar-for-dollar gifts to UF’s College of Education.

“Education really is the key to unlocking doors for later learning and success in life,” said Zucker, CEO and chair of the Charleston, S.C.-based global manufacturing conglomerate The InterTech Group. “Transforming our children’s lives through education is so important in so many ways. The early childhood years are the most critical time for learning. That’s when they build a foundation that will play a major role in defining later success in learning and life.”

Improving early childhood studies is one of the university’s highest priorities, UF President Bernie Machen said. As part of UF’s Preeminence Plan, the university has invested in four faculty positions in the colleges of Education, Medicine and Public Health & Health Professions to support this interdisciplinary effort.

“Anita’s vision and leadership makes it possible for UF to transform America’s approach to early childhood studies,” Machen said. “Having Anita as a partner in this endeavor brings us that much closer to our goal of helping to ensure that every child has a chance to succeed.”

The newly named Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies is dedicated to advancing knowledge, policy and practices, with a focus on newborns to 5-year-olds and their families. Faculty and students from a number of UF colleges and departments are affiliated with the center, which collaborates with local, state, national and international partners to address family support, health, nutrition, mental health and early learning.

The Anita Zucker Center is one of a number of cutting-edge programs in the College of Education that are improving teaching and learning in Florida and across the nation.

“Early childhood education and research has been the big, missing piece in our education system. For UF’s College of Education to partner with others to address this critical need from an interdisciplinary perspective makes sense,” Dean Glenn Good said. “As Florida’s flagship university and a nationally preeminent institution, we have a responsibility to children everywhere to promote the very best learning opportunities for every stage of their lives.”

Zucker is a lifetime education advocate. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education at UF in 1972, received a master’s degree in educational administration and supervision at the University of North Florida and, for 11 years, taught English and social studies in elementary schools in Florida and South Carolina. In 2008, when her husband, Jerry, passed away, she succeeded him as CEO of the Hudson Bay Company and head of the InterTech Group. Jerry Zucker graduated from UF in 1972 as a triple major in math, chemistry and physics.

    SOURCE: Patricia Snyder, professor and David Lawrence Jr. Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Studies, and director, UF Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies; 352-273-4291; patriciasnyder@coe.ufl.edu
    SOURCE: Maureen Conroy, professor and co-director, UF Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies; 352-273-4382; mconroy@coe.ufl.edu

, , ,

Ed. Leadership alum honored as nation’s top principal

UF College of Education alumna Jayne Ellspermann (MEd ’84, educational leadership), principal of Ocala West Port High School, was named national principal of the year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. She was one of six finalists for the 2015 honor.

Jayne Ellspermann

Jayne Ellspermann

The award was announced Oct. 7 at a surprise assembly at the school attended by Florida Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart, elected state and local officials, students, teachers and Ellspermann’s own family. The announcement came as part of NASSP’s celebration of National Principals Month.

During her 10 years as West Port principal, Ellspermann has ushered in a pervasive college-going culture. The high school is home to the Early College Center, an official offsite College of Central Florida campus. Ten percent of West Port’s 2014 seniors earned associate’s degrees a month before actually graduating from high school.

Lunchtime at West Port is “Power Hour,” a student empowerment initiative that Ellspermann launched to grant students autonomy over an hour of their school day for academic enrichment, open labs, clubs and other creative opportunities. Three years of “Power Hour” has produced a more personalized and successful school environment, helping to transform the campus into an “A” school that boasts the highest test scores in the district. West Port students also can earn an associate’s degree before graduating from high school thanks to an on-campus college program Ellspermann spearheaded.

A former law enforcement officer, Ellspermann joined Marion County Public Schools 34 years ago as a high school social studies teacher. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from the University of Florida.

“Jayne Ellspermann believes in students and pushes them to succeed by convincing them the future is theirs to control. ‘Make it a great day or not, the choice is yours’ is the standard mantra at WPHS,” said Superintendent George Tomyn of Marion County Public Schools. “Ellspermann supports this student-focused theme by developing and leading dedicated teachers who deliver outstanding instruction and guidance to West Port students.”

The search for this year’s national principal of the year started in early 2014 as each state principals association selected its state middle level and high school principals of the year. From this pool of state winners, a panel of judges selected three middle level and three high school finalists. A separate panel then interviewed and rigorously reviewed the finalists’ applications to select the national winner. Each finalist received a $1,500 grant, and the national winner will receive an additional grant of $3,000. The grants will be used to improve learning at the school.

— Read more about Jayne Ellspermann’s recognition here.
— Read her article about Power Hour.
Watch some of our selected interviews with Jayne on pertinent education leadership topics.




Five more states join UF center’s $25 million effort to transform special education teaching

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Five states have been added to a list of five others already taking part in a $25 million University of Florida College of Education project that will improve the preparation of teachers and public school leaders who serve students with disabilities. Montana, Utah, Georgia, Ohio and New Hampshire are the latest states […]

, ,

Ed. Leadership ranked 5th nationally among online master’s degree programs

Recruiting students for the College of Education’s online master’s degree program in Educational Leadership just got easier for Bruce Mousa, a course instructor and coordinator of the M.Ed. program.  

MOUSA, Bruce1

Bruce Mousa

TheBestSchools.org, a higher education resource website for college information seekers, recently ranked the program – which prepares working teachers and other professionals to become school principals — No. 5 on its list of the “25 Best Online Master in Educational Leadership Degree Programs.”

While the site also has listed the University of Florida’s overall distance learning program at No. 2 in the nation behind the Penn State World Campus, Mousa is quick to share the credit for the Educational Leadership program’s lofty status.

“I’ve got a fantastic team, and it’s very encouraging that such a young program would get this kind of recognition,” he said. “We’re less than two years old, so this can be used as a marketing tool.”  

Marketing is one of several responsibilities assumed by Mousa, who works in conjunction with the COE’s E-learning, Technology and Creative Services (ETC) staff to promote the fledgling program.

“I’m one of four faculty members, and we tell everyone that we’ve got a flexible, online course that maintains high standards set by UF,” Mousa said. “We personalize our course content by embedding videos of successful principals at Florida schools in our online course modules. They provide great examples of current best practices.”

Mousa also said the No. 5 ranking will help to increase future enrollment.

“I tell school administrators everywhere that our long-range vision is to move from a course sequence beginning every two semesters to having a minimum 15 students beginning the program each semester,” he said.

Jason Arnold, who serves as a liaison between ETC and the Educational Leadership program, said ETC’s marketing support has included creation of a website that provides details about the course. The website address — www.education.ufl.edu/edleadership-med — is distributed through email blasts and at state education conferences and other gatherings held throughout the year.

“The students have been awesome about helping the ETC creative team develop the website,” Arnold said. “They’re a diverse group of working professionals, and several of them have submitted their photos and testimonials about the program.

“Our goal is to have the best online courses available for any area of study,” he added “The online master’s degree program in Educational Leadership is paving the way.”

      Source: Bruce Mousa, UF College of Education; bmousa@ufl.edu; 239-593-9196.
      Media Liaison: Larry Lansford, director, COE Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137.
      Writer: Stephen Kindland, COE Office of News and Communications; skindland@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-3449.

, , ,

Statistics scholar fills ‘big data’ faculty posts at COE, new UF institute

GAINESVILLE, Fla.—A  Harvard-trained statistical researcher and expert in online network modeling has filled one of the College of Education’s four faculty positions created in support of the University of Florida’s preeminence initiative to become one of the nation’s top 10 public research universities.

THOMAS, AndrewAndrew C. Thomas, a research scientist in statistics at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), will become an associate professor in the Research and Evaluation Methodology program at UF’s College of Education. His appointment takes effect in January.

Thomas, who received his doctorate in statistics from Harvard in 2009, also will join a campuswide consortium of faculty scientists in landmark “big data” studies at the new UF Informatics Institute, one of UF’s major preeminence initiatives. The institute’s big-data science initiative is one of 28 high-potential areas of science and scholarship targeted by UF for investment of state preeminence funds. 

The Informatics Institute unites a team of educators, engineers, scientists, artists, natural scientists and other UF faculty researchers in an ambitious push to harness the vast amounts of data now generating in the world and apply them to advancing a wide range of vital areas in education and the social sciences.

“Ninety percent of data that exists today was created in the last two years. Collecting and analyzing immense amounts of data has been a challenge up to now,” said UF education dean Glenn Good. “Dr. Thomas’s expertise in online networks and large data management align well with our efforts to harness informatic analysis and apply it to resolve societal issues. At the College of Education, his contributions will help us better understand national education trends and conduct large-scale effectiveness studies of best  teaching practices.”

Thomas, currently an affiliate faculty member of CMU’s Living Analytics Research Center in Pittsburgh, has focused his investigations on the formation and workings of complex online networks and measuring peer influence between members on a social network. At CMU, he worked on collaborative university-industry studies designed to improve the handling and examination of large data sources, including new sources such as education.

“Much of my recent work focuses on network models that give us information about the individuals themselves who belong to the network,” said Thomas, who has worked at CMU since completing his Harvard Ph.D. studies. “The richness of multiple networks in education, through students in classrooms and teachers in schools, makes this an exciting area of development that I will continue to pursue at the University of Florida.”

Thomas said he looks forward to being part of the collaborative effort at the UF Information Institute where “the trick will be developing computational systems that can cope with large volumes of data.”

Thomas has made numerous presentations and published several research reports, including an encyclopedia article on network modeling. He has applied his statistics know-how to a wide range of fields including political science, public policy, demography, environmental engineering and sports. The Canadian native, a huge ice hockey fan, last year co-authored an article in the Annals of Applied Statistics on statistical approaches for measuring individual player contributions in hockey games. 

Thomas brings two large research grants on network modeling with him to UF worth more than $640,000 combined—one from the National Science Foundation and another from the federal Institute of Educational Sciences.

He said he’s also excited about continuing his teaching and mentoring in the evolving field of data science education at UF.

The big data informatics project is one of three College of Education initiatives that UF administrators targeted for investment of preeminence funds, to the tune of $3.8 million. The other two involve optimizing early childhood development and advancing personalized online learning.

The Florida Legislature in 2013 identified UF as the state’s preeminent university and is giving the university $15 million a year for five years to spend on improving areas that would help it become one of the nation’s top 10 public research universities. The Legislature gave UF another $5 million this spring for the push.

UF President Bernie Machen has pledged to match the state money with $75 million in private donations and spend $150 million on recruiting 120 world-class and up-and-coming faculty to strengthen UF’s research and academic missions.

    SOURCE: Andrew Thomas, PhD, acthomas@stat.cmu.edu, 412-268-3556
    WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

THE JOURNAL: Algebra Nation — Joy Schackow

THE Journal
Algebra Nation/STEM 

An article in the monthly digital edition of THE Journal describes how UF’s Algebra Nation received a $250,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to build a teacher network that works hand-in-hand with a new teaching tool implemented in 2013 to help students with algebra. THE Journal is a leading online resource for administrative, technical and academic technology leaders in K-12 education.



Mentoring program expected to make a difference for minority children

Cheryl Williams and Randy Nelson prepare for a recent workshop.

Cheryl Williams and Randy Nelson prepare for a recent workshop.

A statewide coalition involving UF’s College of Education and Florida’s four historically black colleges and universities – formed last year to match at-risk male elementary school students with minority college students as role-model mentors – has received $500,000 from the Florida Legislature to continue and expand the program for 2014-2015.

Representatives of the research project, known as the Situational Environmental Circumstances Mentoring Program, or SEC, held a three-day leadership training conference at the COE’s Norman Hall recently, gearing up for the second year of the state-funded project. The program provides 150 minority children in grades 3, 4 and 5 with an hour of one-on-one mentoring each week from a male minority college student.

UF COE liaison Cheryl Williams and Michael Bowie, principal investigator of the project and director of the college’s Office for Recruitment and Retention and Multicultural Affairs helped expand the SEC after discussing the program’s potential with founder Randy Nelson, CEO and lead consultant with 21st Century Research and Evaluations Inc.

Williams said the high school graduation rate for black males in Florida is 47 percent and “that’s unacceptable.”

“That’s why we plan to demonstrate that one-on-one mentoring can improve the attendance, grades and behavior of at-risk kids,” Williams said. “The mentors  all have similar backgrounds as the mentees, so we expect to see the mentors benefit as well.”

UF is the administrative agent for the program, which got its start last year with a $619,000 allocation from the state legislature. Other coalition institutions include Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona and Florida Memorial University in Miami.

The group will evaluate the program’s impact on the grade-school minority children. This is the first year that third-graders are participating.

, ,

Second Preeminence Professor appointed in early childhood studies

The University of Florida College of Education has filled its second Preeminence faculty position in early childhood studies, appointing Mary McLean, an endowed professor in early childhood education and director of the Early Childhood Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM).

McLEAN, MaryMcLean, a prominent researcher and leading author of textbooks on assessment of infants and preschoolers with special needs, will join the UF education faculty on Aug. 16 as a professor in the college’s School of Special Education, School Psychology and Early Childhood Studies. 

Her appointment follows on the heels of the recent hiring of that program’s first Preeminence faculty member, Brian Reichow, an emerging scholar of behavioral interventions for young children with autism and developmental disabilities. Both will be affiliated with UF’s interdisciplinary Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies (CEECS), based in the College of Education.

McLean and Reichow are among more than three dozen distinguished faculty members recruited from around the world as part of UF’s “Preeminence Plan” to rise among the nation’s top public research universities. They are in the first wave of an estimated 120 faculty to be recruited this year and in 2015. Both will join the multi-college Preeminence initiative focused on “optimizing early childhood development and learning experiences.”

“With the recruitment of Dr. McLean, we are fortunate to bring one the nation’s most preeminent and productive scholars in early childhood special education to the University of Florida,” said Glenn Good, dean of UF’s College of Education. “Her leadership with the Early Childhood Research Center at Wisconsin offers the perfect background and expertise for the interdisciplinary collaborations she will be involved with at UF.”

Along with her groundbreaking work in the assessment of young children, McLean has co-authored the first three editions of Recommended Practices in Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education, an undertaking of the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) of the international Council for Exceptional Children. The latest revision occurred this year. She is a past president of DEC and currently chairs the group’s Recommended Practices Commission.

 “I was immediately drawn to the Preeminence faculty position at the University of Florida because of the focus on strong interdisciplinary collaborations with recognized leaders in early childhood studies like Pat Snyder and Maureen Conroy at the CEECS,” McLean said. “It’s a grand opportunity to work together toward innovations helping young children and their families and then applying those innovations to help close the gap between research and practice for all children.”

McLean, who has a doctorate in early childhood special education from UWM, also has held faculty positions at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College, Auburn University, the University of North Dakota, and Cardinal Stritch University. She has edited seven books and written numerous refereed articles, book chapters and professionals papers.

Her other research interests include intervention practices, and cultural and linguistic diversity, and she has received 10 personnel preparation grants funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Since 1997, McLean has worked with the California Department of Education on the development of a statewide assessment program for children from birth through age 4.

Since 2010, she has partnered with the Head Start national Center for Quality Teaching and Learning at the University of Washington, developing training and technical assistance materials on child assessment. 

McLean has been teaching in higher education for 32 years and was named Outstanding Graduate Faculty Member while at Auburn. She was a special education teacher for two years in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools before starting her doctoral studies, and also was the supervising teacher for the early development assistance program at the John F. Kennedy Center Experimental School at Peabody College, where she earned her master’s in special education.

UF has earmarked state Preeminence funds for four new “all-star” College of Education faculty positions: two in early childhood studies (McLean’s and Reichow’s), one in education technology (filled by Carole Beal, who will head UF’s new Online Learning Institute), and one in “big data” informatics research in education (Andrew Thomas).

    SOURCE: Mary McLean, marymclean@coe.ufl.edu; 414-229-2213
    WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

, ,

‘Wearing’ a boa constrictor, fist bumping a sloth make UFTeach summer internships memorable

Brett Walker spent a summer morning wearing a boa constrictor as — well, as a boa. Dina Zinni, an aspiring astronomer from Jupiter (no, really, it’s true), spent her afternoons gazing at indoor stars. Not to be outdone, Ashleigh Tucker fist bumped a giant ground sloth as she wandered back in time.

Brett Walker

Brett Walker ‘wears’ a boa constrictor.

The three University of Florida seniors, along with 12 fellow students enrolled in the UFTeach program, discovered the power of informal STEM learning through paid summer internships as Noyce Scholars.

Thanks to a $1.2 million grant awarded last year by the National Science Foundation, the five-year Noyce Scholars program allows UF’s colleges of Education and Liberal Arts and Sciences to offer hands-on training opportunities to help recruit and prepare top science and math majors for teaching careers in the critical shortage areas of STEM, an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math.

Walker, who will graduate with a bachelor’s in geological sciences by summer’s end, says she is grateful for her UFTeach education, which has taken her to Iceland to study volcanoes; to the Caribbean to dive along the deep fore reefs of the Bahamas; to New Mexico, where she crawled through 70-mile-an-hour winds on the peak of the state’s highest mountain; and to the Paleontological Research Institution at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., for this summer’s internship.

“My main job was teaching children about the treasures in their terrain and the excitement of Earth’s wild history,” Walker said. “But I also watched hot lava ooze toward me as part of the Syracuse [N.Y.] Lava Project.”

Dina Zinni

Dina Zinni stands next to Kika Silva Pla Planetarium’s Chronos Star Projector that is used for celestial shows and music performances.

She also helped out in other areas, and gladly agreed to give a short-notice presentation on the boa constrictor to a group of visitors.

“Holding a snake longer than I am tall and teaching children about it for 30 minutes was totally unexpected,” Walker said with a laugh. “Every day I woke up and did something new and exciting, so yeah, I’d say my internship was one of the greatest experiences of my life.”

Zinni, who plans to graduate in the spring with a bachelor’s in astronomy, spent her internship talking to visitors who came to watch shows about our solar system at the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium at Santa Fe College in Gainesville.

“My favorite part was working with kids,” said Zinni, who grew up in Jupiter, Fla. “They’re all so curious and they ask great questions. I’d love to end up running my own planetarium someday.”

Tucker, one of seven interns who worked at UF’s Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, said she gained a fresh perspective on how to teach math to different age groups after spending time at the museum’s numerous exhibits, including “Florida Fossils: Evolution of Life & Land,” where she high-fived and fist bumped a miniature replica of a giant ground sloth, circa 2 million B.C.

Ashleigh Tucker

Ashleigh Tucker fist bumps a replica of a giant ground sloth at UF’s Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.

“I’m writing educator guides for the ‘T. Rex Named Sue’ exhibit that’ll be here in the spring,” Tucker said. “It focuses on math, so essentially it’s teaching K-8 students about dinosaurs by using math instead of the typical paleontology and biology stuff.”

Fellow intern Max Sommer, a senior majoring in geography, had a similar experience at the award-winning museum.

“I didn’t expect first and second graders to think and explore scientifically as much as they did,” he said. “They really ‘buy in’ and do a great job when interesting and fun activities engage them.

“That shows you the power of informal STEM learning,” he said. “I’ve learned the importance of that — not just for the students I’ll be teaching, but for people all around me throughout life.”

   Source: Sharon Holte, vertebrate paleontology Ph.D. student at UF; sharonholte@gmail.com. 
   Media Relations: Larry Lansford, director, College of Education Office of News and Communications; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-4137.
   Writer-Photographer: Stephen Kindland, College of Education Office of News and Communications; skindland@coe.ufl.edu; phone 352-273-3449.

, ,

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.

, ,

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

, ,

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

, ,

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).   

, ,

New education technology professor to head UF Online Learning Institute

BEAL, Carole

Carole Beal

GAINESVILLE, Fla.—The University of Florida College of Education has hired a leading authority on technology-based learning as a professor of education technology who will also head UF’s new Online Learning Institute, one of UF’s major preeminence initiatives.

UF Education Dean Glenn Good announced May 21 the appointment of Carole R. Beal as a faculty professor in the college’s School of Teaching and Learning. Beal currently is a professor of science, technology and the arts at the University of Arizona’s School of Information. Her UF appointment begins Aug. 16.

Beal’s research focuses on the development and use of advanced online learning techniques—particularly in math and science—that improve access to education for all learners including minorities and students with disabilities. Good said Beal’s expertise “not only strengthens the college’s education technology program, but also aligns with the mission of UF’s Online Learning Institute.”

“We will aggressively pursue cutting-edge research and future-focused technological approaches to e-learning tailored to each individual student,” Good said.

The interdisciplinary, four-college OLI is charged with finding ways to improve student learning by merging the teaching sciences and what is known about the brain with the technology that delivers education at a distance. Collaborating researchers will come from the colleges of Education, Engineering, Journalism and Communications, and Fine Arts. UF’s Digital Worlds Institute and UF Online, one of the nation’s first totally online undergraduate degree programs, also are involved.

Beal, who becomes the OLI’s founding director, has a doctorate in psychology from Stanford University, but she also has held professorships in psychology and computer science at Arizona and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and in engineering at the University of Southern California. She also was a psychology professor at Dartmouth College.

She worked on one of the early online tutoring systems in mathematics in the 1990s and has garnered continual research funding for the past 15 years from major funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the federal Institute of Education Sciences and the U.S. Defense Department.

One of Beal’s projects, called Animal Watch Vi, involves developing a virtual tutoring system in math with accompanying books of braille to make online learning accessible for students with visual impairments. The three-year project is supported by an IES grant worth $1.4 million.

Andrew McCollough, UF associate provost for teaching and technology, said Beal has forged a place “on the cutting edge of research in the learning sciences and the field of personalized e-learning.”

“It is fortuitous that the College of Education attracted a leading scholar like Dr. Beal who also expressed a desire to work with the Online Learning Institute,” McCollough said. “The institute involves four colleges and they all agreed that Carole Beal was the right match for directing the institute.”

The OLI is a key component of UF’s campaign to establish itself as one of the nation‘s top 10 public research universities. Multidisciplinary research of personalized e-learning techniques has been targeted by UF administrators for investment of “preeminence funds” allocated last year by the Florida Legislature to support UF’s top-10 effort.

“I was drawn to the University of Florida by the opportunity to join a group of scholars who will collaborate on research and funding pursuits on a large scale. My experience in integrating the learning and computer sciences seemed a good complement to the existing expertise of my new colleagues at UF,” Beal said.

Much of Beal’s latest research merges education with neuroscience, which dovetails well with the OLI’s plans to collaborate with the university’s McKnight Brain Institute and other UF health science disciplines. She has been working to improve “intelligent” tutoring technology and exploring how technology can make online learning accessible to students with special needs.

“In my investigations, I have found that students who appear disengaged in the traditional classroom are often among the most active learners in the online learning setting,” Beal said.

“The coming decade will be an incredible opportunity to merge education with neuroscience,” she added. “Academic programs that take advantage of this connection will rise in national and international stature and lead the way in making online learning accessible to all students.”

SOURCE: Carole Beal, crbeal@arizona.edu, 520-576-4553
SOURCE: Andrew McCollough, UF associate provost, amccollough@aa.ufl.edu; 352-392-1202
SOURCE: Glenn Good, dean, 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


, ,

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

*          *          *

, , ,

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 

, , ,

International group honors Special Ed researcher for 2nd straight year

Mary Brownell

Mary Brownell

GAINESVILLE, Fla.—For the second consecutive year, University of Florida special education professor Mary Brownell has been chosen to receive a top honor from the Council for Exceptional Children, the world’s largest advocacy organization for students with special needs.

Brownell will receive the Kauffman-Hallahan Distinguished Researcher Award, to be presented by the CEC’s Division for Research at the council’s annual conference April 11 in Philadelphia. The award, which includes a $1,000 stipend, recognizes special education researchers whose work yields more effective services or education for exceptional individuals.

Brownell is recognized internationally as a leading scholar and policy expert in special education and teacher preparation. While the CEC honors her this year for her research, the council’s Teacher Education Division last year gave her its Pearson Excellence in Teacher Education Award. The CEC is the largest international professional organization for special educators, with more than 30,000 members.

“Mary is the premier scholar of teacher quality issues in special education,” wrote top special education researchers Donald Deshler of the University of Kansas and David Houchins of Georgia State University in jointly nominating Brownell for the CEC honor. “Her work has had enormous impact on the way teacher educators think about educating special education teachers and state policy and practice in educating teachers for students with disabilities.”

Brownell’s research has focused on improving the quality of teachers serving students with disabilities, including the advancement of literacy instruction among special education teachers, and studies on the induction and mentoring of beginning special educators.

She is the UF College of Education’s top-funded researcher. After more than two decades at UF, her scholarly productivity and international reputation have helped the University of Florida consistently rank among the top 10 special education programs in the nation. 

“Developing a serious research agenda focused on teacher quality issues and engaging other scholars and doctoral students in that agenda is of great important to me,” Brownell said.

In 2013, Brownell, with UF co-researchers Paul Sindelar and Erica McCray, received a federal award worth $25 million—the college’s largest grant ever—to create and lead a national  CEEDAR Center (Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform) at UF. The researchers are working with multiple states in restructuring and improving their teacher preparation programs and policies in special education.

Funded with $800,000 by the federal Office of Special Education Programs, Brownell and colleagues also are addressing the scarcity of research on teacher quality issues in special education. Their grant has supported four doctoral students over four years in their pursuit of new innovations for preparing special educators.

*          *          *


   SOURCE: Mary Brownell, professor of special education, UF College of Education, mbrownelle@coe.ufl.edu, 352-273-4261

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


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

, ,

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

, , ,

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

, ,

Young Alum honoree named to state education post

Brian Dassler (MEd ‘02, English Education)

Brian Dassler (MEd ‘02, English Education)

UF College of Education alumnus Brian Dassler (MEd ‘02, English Education) has been named the Florida Department of Education’s deputy chancellor of education quality for the Division of K 12 Public Schools.

Dassler received the college’s Young Alumni Award two years ago and also is pursuing an Ed.D. degree in educational leadership at UF He is considered by many to be an emerging thought leader in his field. He has co-authored several opinion columns on important education issues for the Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg Times.

Dassler said he hopes his new position will enable him to make an impact on the quality of public education in Florida.

“Florida’s children deserve a skillful teacher in every subject, every year,” he said. “And we owe Florida teachers the preparation time and support necessary to deliver the quality of teaching that students deserve.”

He said his education at UF has helped him to prepare for his new challenge.

“I’m excited to advance an important agenda on behalf of students and educators,” Dassler said. “The ability to ask tough questions of myself and my colleagues — and to follow the answers wherever they may lead — is the critical thinking encouraged at UF.”

Linda Eldridge, Dassler’s doctoral faculty adviser who heads UF’s educational leadership program, said she isn’t surprised by his success.

“Brian has been a leader in every role he has undertaken,” Eldridge said. “He is one of the most outstanding doctoral students I’ve ever worked with in his field. His leadership ability will be an asset in his new role with (the Department of Education).

Dassler previously served as the chief academic officer at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, and as principal at KIPP Renaissance High School, also in New Orleans. He was named Broward County Teacher of the Year in 2007 while at Stranahan High School in South Florida, and was recognized as the 2001 Florida College Student of the Year by Florida Leader magazine.  

Dassler also has demonstrated his dedication to public education by serving on the FLDOE’s FCAT bias review and writing and design committees. During his UF education master’s studies, he was recognized as the 2001 Florida College Student of the Year by Florida Leader magazine.

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


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

, ,

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;


, ,

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/

Education pundit Diane Ravitch gets topical with UF students, faculty

1618324_10151923262271194_925183701_oDiane Ravitch, a renowned education historian and pundit, research professor and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, held an informal Q&A session with 200 UF College of Education students and faculty on Jan. 22 at Norman Hall. The session was held just hours before Ravitch — author of the best-selling book, “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools” — presented a public lecture in University Auditorium.

Her 60-minute session with students included the New York University professor’s view that the decline of public education in the U.S. is “one of the most compelling issues of our time.” She said that attempts being made by political extremists to “destroy and dismantle” public education have played a significant role in the decline, and that corporate involvement – especially the establishment of charter schools that use taxpayer dollars to make a profit before going bankrupt – is setting a dangerous precedent.

Ravitch fielded a variety of questions that centered around education reform, but left her attentive audience with words of encouragement. “The tide is beginning to turn” back in favor of education funding, she said. Ravitch encouraged students to get involved and stick together. “Don’t be the nail that gets hammered,” she advised.

, ,

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

Harry and Diane Daniels: a marriage of true minds

Harry & Diane Daniels

Harry Daniels is a longtime professor of counselor education and has have been actively involved in the training and supervision of school and mental health counselors and marriage and family counselors for over 30 years. Daniels and his wife, Diane, have had the opportunity to expand their professional horizons since their move to Gainesville in 1996. The couple’s story took them from tiny towns in rural Iowa to communities throughout the nation. Both were recently profiled in a local magazine for community residents. We thought you might enjoy the article. 

Click HERE to view the publication in its entirety.


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

, , ,

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



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

, ,

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


P.K. Yonge-China connection continues to blossom

P.K. Yonge host students Dannette Aguirre and Sebastian Galindo, both traveling to Nanjing over Spring Break 2014, take time to show visiting students Yuan Susu and Wu Yushan some of Gainesville’s natural sites during the NJEIS exchange visit in September. (Photo by Paula Hamsho.)

P.K. Yonge host students Dannette Aguirre and Sebastian Galindo, both traveling to Nanjing over Spring Break 2014, take time to show visiting students Yuan Susu and Wu Yushan some of Gainesville’s natural sites during the NJEIS exchange visit in September. (Photo by Paula Hamsho.)

Months of planning became bustling activity when a tour bus of 15 Chinese students, two administrators, and one faculty member arrived at UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School. from the Nanjing Experimental International School (NJEIS) on Sept. 24.

The five-day visit from NJEIS is the second major step in the blossoming partnership between the two school communities. The relationship, characterized by enthusiasm, warmth, and commitment to intercultural communication and global competence, only seems to grow and touch more people more deeply with each new activity in which the two schools engage. 

The P.K. Yonge High School officially welcomed the Chinese delegation with speeches,  student performances and words of welcome in Chinese by high school students Savannah Branch, Stephen Tucker, Robert Powell and Megan Marks. Speeches by representatives from the two schools underscored the sense of gratitude experienced by both hosts and guests for the opportunity to participate in the experience.

During their time in Gainesville, NJEIS students stayed with families of students who visited NJEIS during spring break of 2013 or with students who will be participating in an exchange visit next year. Families welcomed their NJEIS guests into their homes like they were their own children. Student Bai Xiaoyu (Tiffany), while munching on a snack prepared by her host father, said, “ He is just like my own dad!”

“We believe that participating in daily life experiences and making meaningful connections with students and families are two key ways in which people develop global competence,” said Julie Henderson, P.K. Yonge’s Coordinator of International Relations. “Opportunities like those provided to both P.K. Yonge and NJEIS students don’t just promote awareness of another culture, but provide an inside experience and understanding that would not be possible on a tourist visit.”

Visiting administrators and faculty were able to observe classes and participate in official observation activities on the PKY campus. Plans are being developed for the P.K. Yonge faculty delegate, Amanda Adimoolah, to teach classes in the NJEIS elementary school during her time in Nanjing.

Besides their in-home experiences, Chinese students accompanied their American partners to academic classes, took classes taught by P.K. Yonge faculty, visited the UF campus and the Florida Museum of Natural History, and took a day trip to the historic sites and beaches in St. Augustine. The school week ended with a traditional tailgate barbecue before the Blue Wave’s Friday night home football game. The team was welcomed onto the field by the P.K. Yonge cheerleaders and their new Chinese friends.

After the visit, the P.K. Yonge group of students traveling to China in 2014 expanded from 11 to 19.  Interest in the partnership has grown campuswide; with many students expressing interest in future years exchange activities. The P.K. Yonge Elementary school has now begun weekly Chinese classes for second through fifth grade and a middle-high school Chinese language club will begin to support the student delegation traveling to China in the spring.

Response to the visit on both sides of the world has been similar. Yang Xiaolin, assistant principal at NJEIS perhaps described the sentiment best: “Our students entered the U.S. students’ families and felt like family members of their U.S. partners–living together, learning and really feeling American sincerity and enthusiasm. They felt the warmth of this connection extend to their families at home.” 

Planning and fundraising activities are underway for the P.K. Yonge spring break visit to NJEIS. To learn more, donate or keep up with P.K. Yonge’s global activities, visit http://pkyglobal.pkyonge.ufl.edu.

, ,

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

UF College of Education film screening Sept. 26 shines light on innovative inner-city teacher

Discovering Gloria Title CardDirected and produced by award-winning University of Florida documentary filmmaker Boaz Dvir, “Discovering Gloria” tells the story of former Gainesville Duval Elementary School teacher Gloria Jean Merriex’s transformation into a trailblazing innovator and a national model. 

“Discovering Gloria” screens Sept. 26 at 6:30 pm at Lincoln Middle School in Gainesville. The 90-minute program, which is sponsored by the UF College of Education’s Lastinger Center for Learning, includes opening remarks by Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Dan Boyd and a post-screening panel discussion with UF leaders, professors and researchers. The event is free and open to the public. 

“Gloria’s instinctive innovations have greatly informed our work,” said UF Lastinger Center Director Don Pemberton, who worked closely with Merriex. “She showed what an incredible difference a master teacher can make in the lives of vulnerable children.” 

In 2008, Merriex received a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to create a national curriculum using her innovations. The next day, she suffered a fatal diabetic stroke. 

The Sept. 26 documentary post-screening panel features Pemberton; Prof. Thomasenia Adams, associate dean for research at the UF College of Education; Prof. Elizabeth Bondy, director of the UF College of Education’s School of Teaching and Learning; Alachua County School Board Member Leanetta McNealy; Alachua County Public Schools Fine Arts Facilitator Angela Terrell; and University of Texas Assistant Prof. Emily Bonner, who’s flying in to participate in the event. 

The panel also features two of the 35 former Merriex students expected to attend: Charlie Brown, a UF premed junior, and Jasmine Patterson, a Santa Fe College freshman.

An inspiring 40-minute documentary, “Discovering Gloria” shows Merriex engaging her math and reading students at the most effective levels through her innovations, which included hip-hop and dance routines. 

In the film, Pemberton, Bondy and others who examined Merriex’s methods describe how she broke vital new ground.

“She didn’t move to using music because she studied Howard Gardner’s work about multiple intelligences,” Bondy says in the film. “She moved to using music and movement and the other strategies that she used because she studied her students.” 

“Discovering Gloria” also shows how Merriex helped Duval leap from an F on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) in 2002 to an A the following year. 

“Gloria’s innovative approach of teaching her students using rhythm, rhyme and movement is legendary in the Duval Elementary School community,” Superintendent Boyd said. “Through this documentary, people outside that community will also have an opportunity to learn about Gloria’s methods and her many contributions to education.”

, ,

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

, ,

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

, ,

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’.”