Site for Research-related news stories–the latest and also an Archive of past Research stories.

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COE, UF partner with Colombian schools to improve human rights law

For more than 45 years, Colombia has been barraged by a civil war that has resulted in significant violations of human rights.

Now, amid the recent decline of overt war in the South American country, the University of Florida’s College of Education, Levin College of Law and the Center for Latin American Studies have partnered to establish a human rights center at two Colombian law schools closest to the center of conflict.

Mendoza

“Things have settled down compared to the 1990s, but there’s still things going on,” said Pilar Mendoza, a College of Education assistant professor in higher education administration who was born in Colombia. Mendoza is the co-partnership director and co-principal investigator for the project grant.

The three-year effort will be partially funded by the national Higher Education for Development (HED) office with a grant of more than $757,000. The national office works closely with the United States Agency for International Development to mobilize the expertise and resources of the American higher education community to address global development challenges. The participating institutions also provide financial support for the effort.

The human rights center will have an office at the Colombian law schools of the Universidad del Magdalena in Santa Marta and the Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla. The center will offer professional training for law professors, research opportunities, human rights clinics and outreach programs including one in which law students will teach the local Colombian community about human rights.

“The University of Florida faculty at the colleges of Law and Education, and at the Center for Latin American Studies, possess great depth in international law, human rights and experiential learning, and are well suited to achieve the goals of this ambitious program,” said College of Law Dean Robert Jerry.

Although the project has just begun, Mendoza said some important infrastructure is already in place. For example, Mendoza and faculty from the College of Education’s Collaborative Assessment and Program Evaluation Services (CAPES) unit will lead the assessment and monitoring of the new center’s effects.

“The U.S. government is really interested in ensuring what they’re devoting resources to is actually accomplishing the end goals that it sets out to achieve,” said Pedro Villarreal, a CAPES consultant and clinical assistant professor of higher education administration.

The collaboration with Colombian partners began last summer when Mendoza taught a seminar in educational leadership at la Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, her alma mater, opening the doors to other projects related to the development of higher education in the region.

Then, last May, HED announced a grant opportunity for three U.S. law schools that would partner with Colombian law schools to enhance their programs related to human rights in the Colombian Caribbean.

“I had been involved with Colombia in other projects, and this partnership came at the right time,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza said the partnership is particularly important because it serves as a learning opportunity for the Colombian community, as well as for the United States.

“There are a lot things we can learn from other nations about the way we do things here,” Mendoza said. “We have enough domestic problems here, and I do think it’s beneficial to have an open mind to learn from other models and other systems. Maybe there are better ways to do things.”


SOURCE: Pilar Mendoza, assistant professor in higher education administration, pilar.mendoza@ufl.edu; 352-273-4309
WRITER: Alexa Lopez, new media coordinator, news and communications, UF College of Education; aklopez@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4449
MEDIA LIAISON: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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‘Tools for getting along’ helps schoolchildren solve social conflicts

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two University of Florida special education researchers have found a method to help at-risk students with significant behavioral problems learn to calm aggressive tendencies and actively solve their social conflicts.

Researchers Stephen Smith and Ann Daunic

For the past 15 years, UF College of Education researchers Stephen Smith, the Irving and Rose Fien Endowed Professor, and associate scholar Ann Daunic have been developing a curriculum that would target these students’ problem-solving skills. The curriculum, Tools for Getting Along, known as TFGA, gives upper elementary students processes for approaching social problems rationally.

“A lot of times when kids are having a social conflict with another person, it can be emotion-laden,” Smith said. “Because of that, they can end up with an irrational approach to solving their problems, often through physical or verbal aggression, or some other inappropriate behavior that doesn’t really achieve what they want to achieve.”

Daunic and Smith’s latest evaluation of their problem-solving curriculum appeared in a spring issue of the Journal of School Psychology. Smith said the paper is the first to reveal the curriculum’s effectiveness.

In the study, the curriculum was randomly assigned to about half of the 87 fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms observed in 14 schools in North Central Florida with the other half receiving no intervention. Almost 1,300 students participated in the study.

Between 70 and 87 percent of the students in both groups studied received free and reduced price lunch, an attribute of socioeconomic status that can contribute to risk for emotional and behavioral difficulties. The researchers also considered gender and race, which can also be associated with this risk.

“While the target of Tools for Getting Along is children who have difficulties, it’s also a preventive curriculum because it is implemented classwide with the idea that peers will help at-risk children see that there are other ways to solve problems that are more productive,” Daunic said.

The curriculum contains instructional lessons, role-play scenarios, small-group activities and practice opportunities. Then, the effects of tool kit’s 27 lessons were evaluated through teacher and student self-reports, observations and other measures.

Smith said the most significant findings of the recent study measuring TFGA’s effects were the improvements in teacher ratings of students’ “executive functions” — a psychological term describing a set of mental processes, including attention flexibility, working memory for temporarily storing and organizing information, and inhibitory control—that help us regulate our emotions and behaviors in new situations.

With better attention flexibility, students are able to shift their attention from being on the aggressive offense in a social conflict to thinking through alternative strategies. Improvement in working memory and inhibitory control enhances students’ ability to stop and think before acting upon emotions.

“I think this shows a good example of what teachers can do for kids to allow them to equip themselves with a way to handle their own behavior,” Smith said. “It’s an opportunity for students to learn how to control behavior when teachers aren’t there to manage it for them, like at recess, in the cafeteria, on the school bus and at home.”

Daunic said that the study’s results are particularly important in light of current research in neuropsychology and neuroscience that ties children’s emotional well-being with their behavior in school and academic success.

“As more research comes out about the brain and how we learn, there’s more support for interventions that help young people regulate their emotions and regulate their thought processes socially and academically,” Daunic said. “What makes me feel good about this kind of work is that there’s more and more evidence about its importance.”

According to Daunic, positive effects of Tools for Getting Along have endured even a year after the study took place. The researchers are now writing a paper about the curriculum’s longer-term effects and analyzing more data. Their findings will then be reviewed by national educational review panels, or clearinghouses, and considered for designation as a preferred, “evidence-based practice” in education.

The curriculum is available for purchase by teachers and schools at https://education.ufl.edu/conflict-resolution. 


CONTACTS
    Source: Stephen W. Smith, UF professor of special education, 352-273-4263; swsmith@coe.ufl.edu
Writer:
Alexa Lopez, UF College of Education, news and communications, 352-273-4449
    Media contact: Larry Lansford, director, UF College of Education news & communication, 352-273-4137

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Studying abroad found to boost creative thinking

Co-researchers: David Therriault, associate professor in educational psychology, and graduate student Christine Lee

When American college students travel overseas to study, they often seek deep cultural immersion, adventures among historic sites, culinary and artistic exploration and a life-changing learning experience.

Now, according to a new study out of the University of Florida’s College of Education, study-abroad students can also expect one more benefit: enhanced creativity.

UF researchers have found evidence for a link between studying abroad and creativity, showing that exposure to other cultures benefits creative-thinking skills. The research team was made up of graduate student Christine Lee, David Therriault, an associate professor of Educational Psychology, and Tracy Linderholm, a dean at Georgia Southern University and a former UF education professor.

In this study, Lee, Therriault, and Linderholm showed that the “cultural experiences from living abroad may have wide-reaching benefits on students’ creativity,” according to their research article, published recently in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology.

A 2009 study at Northwestern University first identified a potential relationship between multicultural experiences and enhanced creativity. The UF study confirmed the earlier finding by comparing a group of students who were immersed in a foreign country for an extended period of time to existing groups of students who have not studied abroad.

The researchers analyzed the creative mental processes of 135 students from UF, who were recruited by an online participant pool from the College of Education and on-campus International Center.

The volunteers were divided into three groups of 45 students each: those who had studied abroad, those who were planning to study abroad and students who had no plans of studying abroad. Each student completed two measures of creativity to test their general and culture-specific creative thinking.

For example, one of the activities on the general test asked participants to draw pictures using nine identical isosceles triangles and two unfinished figures.

The second task, designed by the UF researchers, tested culture-specific creative ability. Students were asked to answer questions like “What steps can you suggest that would get many more foreign people to come to [America] as tourists?” and “Suppose you had access to any ingredient from all over the world. Describe the dishes you would create using a combination of the most unique and/or exotic ingredients you can think of.”

Results showed that students who had studied abroad outperformed both groups in those tests. Lee said a surprising finding was that the study-abroad students not only performed better on the culture-specific task, but on the general test as well.

“One implication of this finding is that experiences abroad facilitate students’ ability to think in more innovative ways,” Lee said. “The ability to not only master course content but to also creatively apply that knowledge is important for students as they enter the real world.”

The researchers said future studies on the creativity-study abroad link is needed to investigate the influence of other factors such as students’ ethnic backgrounds and the location and length of their study abroad.

“It’s important to understand the complex blend of influences that may explain the link found in this study,” Therriault said.


CONTACTS
SOURCE: David Therriault, 352-273-4345, therriault@coe.ufl.edu
WRITER: Alexa Lopez, 352-273-4449, aklopez@coe.ufl.edu
MEDIA RELATIONS: Larry Lansford, 352-273-4137, llansford@coe.ufl.edu

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Special Education team awarded $25 million to advance teaching of students with disabilities

The University of Florida’s College of Education will receive $25 million over the next five years to address a concern that has plagued American schools for more than two decades—inadequate teaching of children with disabilities.

Mary Brownell

Paul Sindelar

Erica McCray

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs in December granted the first of five annual, $5 million awards to the education college to establish a center to support the development of effective teachers—in general and special education classrooms–and education leaders to serve students with disabilities.

“This grant represents the (Education Department’s) largest investment ever in improving education for students with disabilities,” said co-principal investigator and UF special education professor Mary Brownell.

She said the new Collaboration for Effective Educator Development and Accountability and Reform, also known as CEEDAR Center, will open in January in Norman Hall, home of the College of Education. Other UF co-principal investigators are Paul Sindelar and Erica McCray, also in special education.

Brownell said the CEEDAR Center will work with states in strengthening professional standards and reforming preparation and certification programs for general and special education teachers, and school and school district leaders who work with students with disabilities. The center also will help states revise their teacher evaluation systems to align with the higher professional standards.

“Studies establish that our current systems for licensing, preparing, developing, supporting and evaluating teachers to effectively instruct students with unique needs are wholly inadequate,” Brownell said. “The CEEDAR Center approach is to reform and align these areas with research-proven practices and professional standards.”

“This grant will allow the special education field to take a giant step in improving the education of all students,” she said. “Students with disabilities perform in school more poorly than any other subgroup of students. With truly effective instruction, though, many of these students have abilities that will allow them to advance and succeed in college, career and other postsecondary options.”

Through the CEEDAR Center, the UF group is partnering with nine other organizations in plans to eventually roll out a special-education reform program to 20 states. The center’s primary partner is the American Institutes for Research. Other collaborators include the University of Kansas, the New Teacher Center (a national non-profit), the University of Washington at Bothell, the Council for Exceptional Children and several other national professional organizations.


CONTACTS
SOURCE: Mary Brownell, UF professor of special education, mbrownell@coe.ufl.edu; (c) 352-273-4261; (h) 352-331-2404
SOURCE: Paul Sindelar, UF professor of special education, pts@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4266
SOURCE: Erica McCray, UF assistant professor of special education, edm@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4264
WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

 

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Ford Foundation aids UF Latino immigrant education effort

UF bilingual/ESOL education professor Maria Coady will play a leading role in a $400,000 initiative of UF’s Center for Latin American Studies to develop an interdisciplinary outreach program on immigration, religion and social change.

 The center recently received a two-year grant for that amount from the Ford Foundation to develop effective modules of intervention, exchange and outreach addressing the urgent needs of immigrant Latino communities in North Florida and other southeastern states. Program for Immigration, Religion, and Social Change (PIRSC)–the three-part grant project–focuses on intersecting immigrant Latinos and churches but also ties into legal rights, education, and health care.

 The center is partnering with nongovernmental organizations in the region and faculty in the colleges of Education, Nursing and Liberal Arts and Sciences. Outreach support comes during a highly polarized climate of growing hostility toward immigrants, particularly Latino immigrants. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the five states with the fastest growth rates in Latino populations were along the south, where controversial anti-illegal immigration bills have appeared.

 “The intense pressures experienced by many new immigrants and the lack of social services available to strengthen their neighborhoods and communities have created serious social and cultural tensions in many parts of the South,” Coady said. “There is a clear danger of generating a new, permanent underclass living at the margins of society. We want to see people integrated into communities and able to move forward in life.”

 As principal investigator of the grant’s education portion, which draws $85,000 in support from the Ford award, Coady will lead efforts with local schools to train educators and community leaders, and build family-school-community partnerships based on a “family-strengths-based approach” in Levy and Marion Counties, Fla., and other communities being identified in southeastern Alabama.

Coady has hired Abigail Nelson, a spring 2012 master of education graduate, to work with her.  She is also collaborating with the Rural Women’s Health Project, UF’s College of Nursing and the Center for Latin American Studies to provide training and services to new Latino immigrants.

“A family-strength based approach is grounded in the notion that families, in particular linguistic and culturally diverse families, bring resources to the communities and schools where they live,” Coady said. “These resources can–and should–be used by educators for teaching and to build a partnership with families that benefit kids.”

Her educational project is one of three main initiatives. The Ford Foundation grant supports developing a network of local organizations working in the area on immigrant integration and local civic engagement. Health care access is another focus, with researchers developing and evaluating a community-health worker intervention program to improve health literacy and health-care access among immigrants in the South.

Many of the educational and outreach services—including informational events, retreats, conferences and workshops co-sponsored with faith-based organizations—will be provided in church settings, where immigrants often turn for help and solidarity, Coady said.

A Newcomer Center in Levy County will open this fall, offering bilingual materials that explain how schools work, school enrollment packets and information about clinics and healthcare.

Coady is recognized as an international authority in bilingual and ESOL education. The Institute of International Education’s Fulbright Specialist program, which connects top educators and other professionals in the United States to institutions in more than 100 countries, selected her earlier this year as a candidate in teaching English as a second language and applied linguistics. She has the opportunity to create and engage in short-term projects at an institution or country in need.

She joined UF’s College of Education faculty in 2003 and became a tenured professor in the School of Teaching and Learning in 2010. Coady earned her doctorate degree in social, bilingual and multicultural foundations of education from the University of Colorado, Boulder. 



CONTACTS

    SOURCE:
Maria Coady, associate professor, UF College of Education, 352-273-4228; mcoady@coe.ufl.edu
    WRITER:
Nicole La Hoz, communications intern, UF College of Education, 352-273-4449; nicdyelah@coe.ufl.edu
    MEDIA RELATIONS:
Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

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Award reflects McCray’s rise as top scholar in special education

A diverse and potent research agenda—focusing on (of course) diversity and equity along the teacher-education pipeline—has helped University of Florida special education instructor Erica McCray win a 2012 UF Excellence Award for Assistant Professors.

The awards, presented by the university’s Provost’s Office, recognize junior faculty for excellence in research. Each award is a onetime allocation of $5,000 in support of research that can be used to fund travel, equipment, books, graduate students and other research-related expenses.

Now in her fifth year as assistant professor at UF’s College of Education, McCray has quickly drawn national and international attention for her work. She recently received an Outstanding Author Contribution Award from the Emerald Literati Network for a book chapter resulting from her study of black women scholars teaching at predominately white colleges of education. Her research activities, also involving teacher quality and professional development and K-12 student experiences, have generated more than $4 million in collaborative, highly competitive grant support.

She also is a consultant on two training grants worth more than $2 million.

“My goal is to prepare pre-service teachers who are skilled and have a strong sense of self-efficacy to teach students with special needs, as well as students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds,” said McCray, who earned her doctorate in special education from the University of South Florida in 2006 and was a visiting instructor there for a year before joining the UF faculty in 2007.

At UF, McCray made an instant impact as a special education instructor and mentor, receiving the College of Education’s Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2009. She also served as a research associate with the UF-based National Center to Inform Policy and Practice in Special Education Professional Development (NCIPP). Her research is widely published in highly regarded journals including Teacher Education Quarterly and the Journal of Special Education Leadership.

Her intriguing assortment of research topics also includes studies on the experiences of students enrolled in magnet schools and on the perspectives of K-12 students on their literacy and technology experiences.

“Professor McCray established herself quickly as a talented instructor and she is moving rapidly toward becoming a national leader in her field,” said Jean Crockett, professor and director of the college’s School of Special Education, School Psychology and Early Childhood Studies.


 CONTACTS   

   SOURCE: Erica McCray, UF assistant professor in special education, edm@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4264
   WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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Researcher-author on teacher ‘inquiry’ tapped for elite UF professorship

University of Florida education professor and best-selling author Nancy Fichtman Dana, recognized nationally for her research and books on novel strategies in school reform and professional development for educators, has been named a UF Research Foundation Professor for 2012-2015.

Dana, a professor in the College of Education’s School of Teaching and Learning, is one of 33 UF faculty scholars selected for the prestigious posts. The University of Florida Research Foundation awards the professorships annually to tenured faculty who have a distinguished record of research and a strong research agenda that is likely to lead to continuing distinction in their fields. The three-year award includes a $5,000 annual salary supplement and a one-time $3,000 grant to support their research.

Dana is one of the nation’s top scholars in the field of “practitioner inquiry” or action research, a novel approach to professional development for teachers, principals and other school administrators.  The process involves educators assessing their own practices, and then sharing what they learn with their peers to foster “whole school” improvement and enhanced student learning.

“Teachers are in the best position to identify problems in the classroom and find workable solutions. Rather than having outsiders come to schools and tell them how to fix their problems, we’re encouraging schools to take charge of their own professional development,” Dana said. “We coach them on becoming more reflective, analytical and critical of their own teaching, and then taking action to improve their classroom practices.”

“This self-reflecting and sharing process,” she adds, “allows schools to improve from within.”

Dana has coached the action research of thousands of educators from school districts across the state and nation, and has published eight books and more than 50 journal articles and book chapters on teacher and principal professional development and practitioner inquiry.

Two of her books—guides to classroom research and coaching inquiry-based learning communities in schools, respectively—were best sellers. The latter was chosen 2008 Book of the Year by the National Staff Development Council.  She recently published an electronic version of her 2010 book, “Powerful Professional Development: Building Expertise Within the Four Walls of Your School.”

Her publisher, Corwin Press, has an author’s website for Dana at: http://www.corwin.com/authors/522546.

Dana’s research on practitioner inquiry forms the core of the college’s innovative, on-the-job Teacher Leadership for School Improvement graduate degree program, which the Association of Teacher Educators cited as the 2011 Distinguished Program in Teacher Education.

“Dr. Dana is an exceptionally productive scholar and she continues to probe the possibilities and impact of practitioner inquiry, extending her work to special education teachers and the use of the latest Web technologies,” said Elizabeth Bondy, director of UF’s School of Teaching and Learning.

Dana is working with UF education colleagues Cynthia Griffin (in special education) and Stephen Pape (mathematics education) to develop and evaluate an extensive online professional development program for third through fifth grade teachers focused on the teaching and learning of math. Their work is funded by a $1.5 million grant from the federal Institute of Education Sciences.

Dana has a doctorate in elementary education from Florida State and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from State University of New York at Oswego. In 2009, the New York Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and the New York Association of Teacher Educators dually presented Dana with the New York Teacher Impact Award.

Dana joined UF’s education faculty from Penn State in 2003 and directed UF’s Center for School Improvement through 2010.  She received the national ATE organization’s Distinguished Research in Teacher Education Award in 2005.

More recently, she has helped the college’s Lastinger Center for Learning redesign professional development programs for several Florida school districts, with practitioner inquiry at the core.

She said her future research activities will focus on gauging the effectiveness of practitioner inquiry on K-12 virtual school educators, and on helping general and special education teachers use action research to meet the mathematical learning needs of all students, including those with disabilities.

 


CONTACTS

   SOURCE: Nancy Dana, professor, UF College of Education, ndana@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4204

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

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‘Opportunity’ research will boost interventions for children with autism

Fresh off winning a highly competitive seed grant from the University of Florida’s Office of Research, UF College of Education professor Maureen Conroy aims to fill a critical gap in intervention options addressing core social and communication learning deficits in children with autism spectrum disorders, or ASD, a complex, neurological developmental disorder that affects more than 240,000 American children and young adults.

Although no two people with autism will have exactly the same symptoms, people with the disorder typically have difficulty communicating with others and are socially awkward or prefer to stay to themselves.

“Social skill deficits are the most distinguishable feature of children with autism, but little research has been conducted to explain the intentions behind occasional displays of positive social behavior,” Conroy said. “Determining the primary reasons these children engage in positive or ‘prosocial’ behavior—perhaps to get attention, get their way or escape an uncomfortable situation—is a new strategy that showed promise in an earlier study. Now we can use this information to design and test tailored interventions for improving a child’s communication and social skills.”

Principal investigator Conroy, a professor of special education and early childhood studies, and co-PI Krestin Radonovich, a UF pediatric neuropsychologist, have received a Research Opportunity Fund (ROF) grant from UF worth more than $93,000 for their two-year study. Sixty children with ASD between 3 and 10 years old are being recruited from Alachua County to participate.

“Autism is a vital national health concern,” said Conroy, who also is associate director of UF’s Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies. “It’s estimated that ASD occurs in one of every 88 children. What’s most alarming is that the prevalence rate today is 10 times higher than it was in the 1980s. The cost impact on our society is estimated as high as $90 billion annually.

“In our research, we will implement function-based interventions to promote higher rates of positive social interactions in children with ASD, which should improve their long-term outcomes.”

Conroy’s project is one of 18 ROF grants awarded this year by UF’s research office. The annual seed grants provide funding for new and particularly promising research proposals that are multi-disciplinary and are expected to attract additional external funding from major funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health. Conroy also was awarded a seed grant in 2005.

Other past grant recipients from the College of Education include Linda Lombardino (2011), Ann Daunic (2009), Holly Lane and Luis Ponjuan (both 2008), and Jennifer Asmus (2002).

“Research Opportunity Fund grants historically go to UF faculty researchers in the technical fields such as medicine and engineering,” said Thomasenia Adams, associate dean for research, faculty development and graduation education, “so it is notable to have several multidisciplinary research teams from the College of Education receive this highly competitive award over the past several years.”

Conroy has extensive experience in conducting early intervention research with children who are at risk for or have social and behavioral disabilities, including children with autism spectrum disorders. She is principal investigator on an Institute of Educational Sciences grant worth $4 million, investigating the efficacy of a classroom-based intervention model aimed at reducing significant behavior problems in pre-kindergarten children at risk for learning and behavioral difficulties.


CONTACTS

   SOURCE: Maureen Conroy, professor in special education and early childhood studies, 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

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Smith Professorship study will benefit English language learners

Elementary school students learning English as a second language will benefit from groundbreaking research by University of Florida education professor Ester de Jong, in new studies supported by her recent appointment to the College of Education’s prestigious B. O. Smith Research Professorship.

While occupying the three-year post, de Jong will investigate ways that elementary teachers can best help young English language learners (ELLs) bridge the language gap in order to succeed in school. Her research focuses not on conversational English but on the “academic language”—the language of school, textbooks and testing—that is vital to school success. 

The B.O. Smith endowed professorship supports new, cutting-edge research of promising education faculty who are preparing to go up for full professor. It carries the potential for $3,000 annually in research funding and a $5,000 yearly salary stipend, renewed year to year based on research progress, for a total award package of $24,000. Appointments last three years and are staggered so a new professorship is awarded annually.

Cynthia Griffin in special education is the other current B.O. Smith Professor. The professorship’s namesake is a former UF education faculty member in curriculum and instruction.

de Jong, an associate professor in bilingual and ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) education, said mastering academic language proficiency is essential for all students, but especially for bilingual learners still acquiring English. She said their learning is best supported when teachers purposefully develop academic language.

 “Current research primarily focuses on academic language development at the secondary-level content areas. This study will take place in two partnering second-grade, dual language classes in a Duval County elementary school. Spanish is the language of instruction in one class and English in the other classroom,” said de Jong, a UF faculty member since 2001.

Recent studies show that more than a third of fourth-grade ELLs are behind their white peers in math and nearly half are behind in reading. More and more, researchers view ELL students’ lack of access to the development of academic language as a leading influence on academic achievement.

de Jong’s study will involve multiple teacher interviews and videotaped observations of teacher-student exchanges during classroom lessons in both Spanish and English.

“The findings,” de Jong said, “will contribute to our understanding of academic language in the classroom and will support effective professional development for teachers working with English language learners.”

de Jong, who speaks fluent Dutch, English and Spanish, is a nationally recognized authority in dual language education. She has published several research articles on the topic and is the sole author of the 2011 book, “Foundations of Multilingualism in Education: Principles to Practice.” She has an Ed.D. degree in literacy, language and cultural studies from Boston University.

 “Dr. de Jong’s research funded by the B.O. Smith Professorship addresses a major gap in the international literature on bilingual education,” said Elizabeth Bondy, director of UF’s School of Teaching and Learning. “Her findings will position her to be competitive for significant additional external funding and will enhance the professional development of teachers working with English language learners.”

de Jong in 2009 was awarded a College of Education Faculty Enhancement Opportunity grant worth more than $35,000 to fund activities to enhance her expertise in the research, policy and practice of teaching in multilingual contexts. She used her added expertise to build on her current $1.2 million study (with co-researchers Maria Coady and Candace Harper) examining teacher effectiveness with students in Florida schools who speak English as a second language.

The B.O. Smith study continues research conducted in 2009-2010 in a dual language school in Massachusetts, sponsored by a $40,000 Spencer Foundation research grant.


CONTACTS
  
SOURCE: Ester de Jong, associate professor, UF College of Education, 352-273-4227; email edejong@coe.ufl.edu 
   WRITER: Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

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Incentive grants support promising studies likely to draw additional funding

The College of Education has awarded internal College Research Incentive Fund (CRIF) grants to faculty members Mary Brownell, Sondra Smith and Kelly Whalon to study vital education concerns such as literacy skills and parental involvement in education. The individual grants go mainly to faculty members with research projects that are likely to attract additional funding in the future.The one-year stipends can be worth up to $15,000 each.

Recipients are selected for their proposals by a college faculty review committee. This year’s winning projects are:

Mary Brownell (Special Education)

Brownell’s funding will lead to studies on how elementary school students learn to read, spell and understand words with multiple syllables. She is pursuing a better understanding of the cognitive and language abilities that predict students’ abilities to respond to instruction in this area. More specifically, she is exploring how students become “morphologically aware” so they can learn to decode and understand the smaller units of meaning in our language, such as prefixes, suffixes and root words. Her research is expected to aid the development of better teaching methods for students with reading disabilities and help target struggling students earlier for intensive intervention that will improve their vocabulary, decoding, spelling and reading comprehension.

Sondra Smith (Counselor Education)
Smith, the principal investigator, plans to address the question, “What can parents do to help their children succeed in school?” The research will provide an in-depth look at how parents can influence their children’s success by being more involved at home as well as at school. The study addresses a lack of meaningful research in the literature about how parent’s goals, aspirations and values for their children are transmitted through their interactions at home. Smith will work with co-PIs Ellen Amatea (counselor education) and Walter Leite (research and evaluation methods).

Kelly Whalon (Early Childhood Studies)
Whalon’s CRIF research will examine the effect that a promising intervention strategy, called Project RECALL, has on building literacy skills for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). RECALL is an adaptation of an approach used to teach young children emergent literacy skills. The adapted RECALL strategy was developed by Whalon and two professors at Florida State University and the University of Louisville. Her findings in the CRIF study are expected to provide evidence that children with ASD can improve certain language and emergent literary skills that contribute to growth in vocabulary and comprehension. With her new data, Whalon hopes to launch pilot studies of the program at all three universities.


CONTACTS
WRITER:
Jessica Bradley, communications intern, UF College of Education, 352-273-4449; jessica.bradley@ufl.edu
MEDIA RELATIONS:
Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

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Early teaching experiences inspire study on black males’ perception of high school success

Like most new teachers, Melissa Singleton entered her first classroom 17 years ago with high expectations for her students’ success. What she didn’t expect were cultural barriers that would shape the topic of her doctoral dissertation study at UF’s College of Education.

Singleton, who graduated recently with her Ph.D. in educational leadership, said she had trouble communicating with most of her students as a novice teacher because she wasn’t in tune with their ethnic backgrounds.

Melissa Singleton

Her students, mostly African American, used words like “flawjin’” and other slang that Singleton had never heard before. She reached out to one of her students to teach her current slang and help her understand their music, hairstyles and fashion. Turns out “flawjin’” means to put on a front. Singleton learned more teen pop-culture lingo, listened to her students’ music and allowed them to pick her nail polish if they did well on their tests. She even learned the crochet method of hair braiding that was popular among black girls.

“You talk about teaching moments, but you have learning moments as teachers, too,” Singleton said.

She always took the time to connect with her students—whom she affectionately refers to as “my kids”– because she knew that was the only way she could gain the credibility and trust needed to motivate them.  The relationship-forming didn’t take too much time, either. She’d eat lunch with her students or talk with them in the classroom, hallway or during planning periods.

Singleton taught subjects from math to reading in regular and special education classrooms at several schools before her promotion in 2010 to assistant principal at Kanapaha Middle School in Gainesville, where she continued to work while pursuing her doctorate at UF.

It was her early, challenging teaching experiences that inspired her dissertation research on black males’ perception of their high school success. She wanted to know why some African-American male students were responsive and successful in her class and not in other subjects.

She interviewed and held focus groups with seven randomly selected, black male students from a North Central Florida high school, all with different backgrounds: some came from stable families and others came from living situations that would make graduating high school seem like an insurmountable feat.

The seven black males in her study agreed that academic success, to them, meant having a 2.5 grade point average, which amounts to As and Bs with a few Cs, and being able to play sports, which requires at least a 2.0 GPA. Even though none of the students averaged at least 2.5, they all said it is something they’d like to achieve.

From her research, Singleton concluded that family, educational and peer relationships all play a part in a student’s success. All seven students agreed that the relationship with their teachers profoundly influences their academic success.

“Students work for teachers who make them feel good about themselves,” said Linda Behar-Horenstein, a  UF distinguished teaching scholar and professor in higher education administration and Singleton’s doctoral chair. She said Singleton’s research reinforces the importance of relationships between teachers and students and cultural awareness.

One student in Singleton’s study, referring to a teacher he didn’t get along with, said, “I was failing her class because I couldn’t stand her. I don’t like English, and she wasn’t patient and always had an attitude; it was like somebody stomped on her foot or something every time I saw her.”

That same student–the son of a single mother in jail, being raised by his 21-year-old sister with two young children of her own, said school was the only place he could get away from the drama and chaos in his home life. Yet he was failing some of his favorite courses because he was taken out of school so often to take care of his sister’s kids.

Behar-Horenstein said teachers should realize that when students are rude, it’s cause for a conversation to understand why the student is behaving that way. She said it doesn’t take time or money to do that, it just takes an “I want to” from the teacher.

After her study, Singleton concludes that teaching is about relationships and trust; she incorporates her findings into her job as assistant principal. She suggests school administrators should provide group training to prepare teachers to be better relationship builders with all students.

“There has to be a way to teach relationship building and cultural awareness,” Singleton said. “Everyone can grow – from the top down.”

She said that while her study focused on black males, the findings transcend race, culture and ethnic background.

“Educators must be able to understand students as individuals,” she said. “We have to be able to meet them where they are– academically, personally and emotionally. Only then can we help them reach their greatest potential.”


CONTACTS
WRITER:
Jessica Bradley, student intern, news & communications, UF College of Education, 273-4449
MEDIA RELATIONS:
Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

 

AERA 2012 annual meeting: Listing of presentations by UF education faculty, graduate students

INTRODUCTION

More than 70 University of Florida College of Education faculty and graduate students were among the 13,000 scholars from 60 nations who gathered in Vancouver for five days in April for the 93rd 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 education disciplines, attend AERA’s annual conference than any other professional meeting. The UF contingent included about 35 faculty and 38 graduate students in education. The massive AERA gathering is always a hotbed of new and exciting, research-based ideas about teaching and education issues and trends. UF presentations include pertinent topics such as:

— Ways for school leaders to assess emotional intelligence and burnout in teachers
— Literacy development for young children with disabilities
— Early childhood classroom intervention for reducing problem behaviors
— Using action research in professional development for virtual school educators
— Zero tolerance legislation: Do we really want to Leave No Child Behind?
— Analysis of schoolwide violence prevention programs

— The effect of debt and working on graduate students’ achievement

Albert Ritzhaupt

Busiest COE faculty presenters and participants at the conference were Albert Ritzhaupt (education technology) with six presentations and Walter Leite (research and evaluation methods) with five.

The following pages comprise an alphabetical listing of participating UF education faculty and graduate students, along with their respective presentation topics . . .

HOW LISTING WAS COMPILED: Listing data was copied directly from AERA’s online annual conference schedule and organized alphabetically by participants’ names. This is a partial listing intended merely to display level of participation and topics covered by UF education faculty and graduate students. Listing does not distinguish between presenters and non-presenting participants and co-investigators. A complete listing and schedule of conference presentations and participants’ roles is available online at: www.aera.net. Click on “Events & Meetings” and navigate to the 2012 annual meeting portal.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

PRESENTATION LISTINGS

*Graduate student

Adams, Alyson J.

  • Florida Master Teacher Initiative: Job‐Embedded Graduate Education and Professional Development
  • Across the Pond: A Comparative Look at Independently Designed School Reform Programs in England and the United States
 Algina, James

  • Estimating Context Effects: A Simulation Study
 Barnes, Tia Navelene*

  • Integrating Social‐Emotional Learning and Literacy: Findings From Two Years of Implementing
    SELF (Social‐Emotional Learning Foundations) Lessons in Kindergarten
  • A Quasi‐Experimental Analysis of School‐Wide Violence Prevention Programs
Behar-Horenstein, Linda S.

  • College Teachers’ Instructional Practices: Exploratory and Confirmatory Factor Analyses
  • Assessing Teacher Emotional Intelligence and Burnout Provides a New Lens for School Leaders
 Boynton, Sylvia

  • College Teachers’ Instructional Practices: Exploratory and Confirmatory Factor Analyses
  • Assessing Teacher Emotional Intelligence and Burnout Provides a New Lens for School Leaders
Brownell, Mary T.

  • Literacy Development for Young Children With Disabilities: The Interactions of Phonemic Awareness, Vocabulary, Decoding, and Reading Comprehension
 Carpenter, Julia Kathryn*

  • An Exploratory Study of the Role of Teaching Experience in Motivation and Academic Achievement in a Virtual Ninth‐Grade English I Course
 Castaneda, Magdi

  • Professors in Residence: Agents of Constructive Dissonance
 Cavanaugh, Cathy

  • An Exploratory Study of the Role of Teaching Experience in Motivation and Academic Achievement in a Virtual Ninth‐Grade English I Course
Chiu, Chu-Chuan*

  • Behind the Screens: English Language Learners’ Out‐of‐School Literacy Engagement in World of Warcraft (WoW)
 Clark, Mary Ann

  • Pursuing a Degree: Perceptions of Educational Leaders About Latino Males’ Resources, Barriers, and Support Systems for Higher Education
 Clawson, Jessica*

  • Drag and the Pedagogy of Silence: Performance and Gender in the Queer Student Movement
 Conroy, Maureen

  • The Efficacy of an Early Childhood Classroom Intervention in Reducing Problem Behaviors
 Corbett, Nancy

  • Integrating Social‐Emotional Learning and Literacy: Findings From Two Years of Implementing SELF (Social‐Emotional Learning Foundations) Lessons in Kindergarten
Coughlin, Meredith*

  • Balancing Personal, Professional, and Academic Commitments: Challenges Experienced by Online Doctoral Students
 Dana, Nancy Fichtman

  • Using Action Research in Professional Development for Virtual School Educators: Exploring an Established Strategy in a New Context
 Daunic, Ann P.

  • Integrating Social‐Emotional Learning and Literacy: Findings From Two Years of Implementing SELF (Social‐Emotional Learning Foundations) Lessons in Kindergarten
 Dawson, Kara M.

  • Differences in Student Technology Literacy Based on Socioeconomic Status, Ethnicity, and Gender
  • Examining the Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Practices of Math and Science Teachers Involved in a Year‐Long Technology Integration Initiative
  • Unearthing Students’ Digital Artifacts: Examining Technology Tools and Elements From a Yearlong Technology Integration Initiative
  • Using Action Research in Professional Development for Virtual School Educators: Exploring an Established Strategy in a New Context
 Devane, Ben*

  • Citizen Science
 Diaz, Raquel Rosa*

  • Professors in Residence: Agents of Constructive Dissonance
 Fernandez, Heidi*

  • Balancing Personal, Professional, and Academic Commitments: Challenges Experienced by Online Doctoral Students
 Frey, Chris Atkinson*

  • A Literature Synthesis About Games in Education
  • Examining the Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Practices of Math and Science Teachers Involved in a Year‐Long Technology Integration Initiative
  • Unearthing Students’ Digital Artifacts: Examining Technology Tools and Elements From a Yearlong Technology Integration Initiative
 Fu, Danling

  • The Role of ELL (English Language Learner) Students’ First Language (L1) in Their English Writing Development
 Gao, Miao*

  • Estimating Context Effects: A Simulation Study
 Garvan, Cyndi W.

  • Assessing Teacher Emotional Intelligence and Burnout Provides a New Lens for School Leaders
 Good, Glenn E.

  • Men in Elementary Education: Life Satisfaction and Perceptions of Gender‐Related Work Barriers
 Grosland, Tanetha Jamay*

  • Examining Teachers’ Understandings of Inquiry Research: What It Tells Us About Professional Development Efforts
  • Through Laughter and Through Tears: Emotional Responses to Antiracist Pedagogy
 Gunderson, Alee Lynch*

  • The Effect of Debt and Working While Enrolled on Graduate Attainment
 Gurel, Sungur*

  • A Propensity Score Matching Analysis of the Effects of Head Start for English Language Learners
  • Comparison of Inverse Probability of Treatment Weighting and Optimal Full Matching Methods to Estimate the Average Treatment Effect: A Monte Carlo Simulation Study
 Huang, He*

  • Using Discourse Analysis to Explore IRF (Initiation‐Response‐Feedback) Exchanges Between Mainstream Elementary Teachers and English Language Learners
 Johnson, Allison*

  • Balancing Personal, Professional, and Academic Commitments: Challenges Experienced by Online Doctoral Students
 Johnson, Margeaux C.*

  • A Literature Synthesis About Games in Education
  • Where Should Educational Technologists Publish?
 Kaya, Yasemin*

  • Evaluation of the Use of Propensity Scores in Mediation Analysis
 Kennedy-Lewis, Brianna L.

  • Using a Critical Policy Analysis to Reveal Competing Ideologies in Zero Tolerance Legislation: Do We Really Want to Leave No Child Behind?
 Kenney, Johanna K.*

  • Balancing Personal, Professional, and Academic Commitments: Challenges Experienced by Online Doctoral Students
 Koro-Ljungberg, Mirka E.

  • Virtual methodology and connectibility in qualitative research
  • What do data want?
 Krell, Desirae Eva*

  • Using Action Research in Professional Development for Virtual School Educators: Exploring an Established Strategy in a New Context
 Kumar, Swapna

  • Balancing Personal, Professional, and Academic Commitments: Challenges Experienced by Online Doctoral Students
Leite, Walter L.

  • A Propensity Score Matching Analysis of the Effects of Head Start for English Language Learners
  • A Quasi‐Experimental Analysis of School‐Wide Violence Prevention Programs
  • Comparison of Inverse Probability of Treatment Weighting and Optimal Full Matching Methods to Estimate the Average Treatment Effect: A Monte Carlo Simulation Study
  • Evaluation of the Use of Propensity Scores in Mediation Analysis
  • Teachers’ Graduate Education and Experience Affecting Elementary Student Achievement: A Crossed Random Effects Growth Model
 Li, Zhuo*

  • Behind the Screens: English Language Learners’ Out‐of‐School Literacy Engagement in World of Warcraft (WoW)
 Liu, Feng*

  • Differences in Student Technology Literacy Based on Socioeconomic Status, Ethnicity, and Gender
  • Examining the Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Practices of Math and Science Teachers Involved in a Year‐Long Technology Integration Initiative
  • Technology to Enhance Mathematics and Science Teaching and Learning
  • Validation of the Inventory of Teacher Technology Skills
 McLaughlin, Tara

  • Functional Ability Profiles and Young Children’s Social Competence: Exploring Relationships in the Pre‐Elementary Education Longitudinal Study Data Set
 Mendoza, Pilar

  • The Effect of Debt and Working While Enrolled on Graduate Attainment
 Miller, M. David

  • A New Procedure in Large‐Scale Assessment Academic Growth Detection as Mixture Group Academic Growths Vary
  • Item‐Attribute Misspecifications and the Reparameterized Unified Model for Cognitive Diagnosis
 Nelson, Frederick*

  • Two Dimensions of Reflection: A Heuristic for Describing and Interpreting Reflection in Teacher Education Programs
 Niu, Lian*

  • College Teachers’ Instructional Practices: Exploratory and Confirmatory Factor Analyses
 Oh, Ji Hyun*

  • A Propensity Score Matching Analysis of the Effects of Head Start for English Language Learners
 Oliver, Bernard

  • Strategic Means for Developing Meaningful University‐Public School Partnerships
Pape, Stephen J.

  • Principles of Effective Pedagogy Within the Context of Connected Classroom Technology: Implications for Teacher Knowledge
  • Uptake of Students’ Comments, Questions, and Representations during Algebra 1 Classes
 Park, Yujeong*

  • A Propensity Score Matching Analysis of the Effects of Head Start for English Language Learners
 Pitts, Donna L.*

  • Integrating Social‐Emotional Learning and Literacy: Findings From Two Years of Implementing SELF (Social‐Emotional Learning Foundations) Lessons in Kindergarten
 Poekert, Philip Emery

  • Across the Pond: A Comparative Look at Independently Designed School Reform Programs in England and the United States
  • Florida Master Teacher Initiative: Job‐Embedded Graduate Education and Professional Development
 Poling, Nathaniel*

  • A Literature Synthesis About Games in Education
 Ponjuan, Luis

  • Pursuing a Degree: Perceptions of Educational Leaders About Latino Males’ Resources, Barriers, and Support Systems for Higher Education
 Pringle, Rose M.

  • Examining the Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Practices of Math and Science Teachers Involved in a Year‐Long Technology Integration Initiative
 Qi, Yang*

  • Using Discourse Analysis to Explore IRF (Initiation‐Response‐Feedback) Exchanges Between Mainstream Elementary Teachers and English Language Learners
 Ritzhaupt, Albert Dieter

  • A Literature Synthesis About Games in Education
  • Differences in Student Technology Literacy Based on Socioeconomic Status, Ethnicity, and Gender
  • Examining the Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Practices of Math and Science Teachers Involved in a Year‐Long Technology Integration Initiative
  • Technology to Enhance Mathematics and Science Teaching and Learning
  • Validation of the Inventory of Teacher Technology Skills
  • Where Should Educational Technologists Publish?
 Rodriguez, Prisca*

  • Examining the Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Practices of Math and Science Teachers Involved in a Year‐Long Technology Integration Initiative
  • Public Displays of Qualitative Enterprise: The Networked Researcher
  • Unearthing Students’ Digital Artifacts: Examining Technology Tools and Elements From a Yearlong Technology Integration Initiative
 Sandbach, Robert John*

  • Item‐Attribute Misspecifications and the Reparameterized Unified Model for Cognitive Diagnosis
  • Teachers’ Graduate Education and Experience Affecting Elementary Student Achievement: A Crossed Random Effects Growth Model

 Santiago-Proventud, Lourdes*

  • Integrating Social‐Emotional Learning and Literacy: Findings From Two Years of Implementing SELF (Social‐Emotional Learning Foundations) Lessons in Kindergarten
 Sessums, Christopher Davis

  • Where Should Educational Technologists Publish?
 Schomburg, Janice (EDS ’10)

  • Examining Teachers’ Understandings of Inquiry Research: What It Tells Us About Professional Development Efforts
 Sharp, Florence Wolfe*

  • Balancing Personal, Professional, and Academic Commitments: Challenges Experienced by Online Doctoral Students
 Smith, Stephen W.

  • A Quasi‐Experimental Analysis of School‐Wide Violence Prevention Programs
  • Integrating Social‐Emotional Learning and Literacy: Findings From Two Years of Implementing SELF (Social‐Emotional Learning Foundations) Lessons in Kindergarten
 Tricarico, Katie M.*

  • Reflection on Their First Five Years of Teaching: Understanding Staying and Impact Power
 Vescio, Vicki A.

  • Examining Teachers’ Understandings of Inquiry Research: What It Tells Us About Professional Development Efforts
  • Identifying With School: The Case Studies of Two African American Boys
  • Professors in Residence: Agents of Constructive Dissonance
 Villarreal III, Pedro

  • Structuring Economic Opportunity for College Success: Estimating the Causal Effects of Work‐ Study on College Outcomes
 Walsh, Cara A.I*

  • Examining Teachers’ Understandings of Inquiry Research: What It Tells Us About Professional Development Efforts
 Wells, Tasha*

  • Balancing Personal, Professional, and Academic Commitments: Challenges Experienced by Online Doctoral Students
 West-Olatunji, Cirecie

  • The Intersection of Ethno‐Cultural Identity, Sexual Orientation, and Traumatic Stress in Adult African American Gay Men
 Wolkenhauer, Rachel*

  • Using Action Research in Professional Development for Virtual School Educators: Exploring an Established Strategy in a New Context
 Zhang, Ou*

  • A New Procedure in Large‐Scale Assessment Academic Growth Detection as Mixture Group Academic Growths Vary

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

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Early-childhood service award has special meaning for Patricia Snyder

When Patricia Snyder, who heads the University of Florida’s Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies, recently received the Mary McEvoy Service to the Field Award from the international Division for Early Childhood, she cherished both the recognition and the associations with McEvoy and previous award recipients.

Patricia Snyder portrait

Patricia Snyder

The McEvoy award annually recognizes a community member, parent or professional who has made significant contributions, on a national or international level, to early intervention and early childhood special education that improve the lives of young children with special needs, their families, or those who work on their behalf. The DEC is a division of the Council for Exceptional Children, the largest international organization of professionals in the field.

McEvoy, the former director of the Center for Early Education and Development at the University of Minnesota, was a nationally respected researcher and advocate in early childhood studies. She was one of seven passengers who died with Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone in a 2002 plane crash on their way to a political debate and funeral service. She was 49.

“Mary McEvoy set the bar high for those of us in early-childhood-studies science, policy and practice. Those who have previously received the award named in her honor have raised the bar even higher,” Snyder said. “Much of what we envision for our center at the University of Florida is influenced by the work of Mary, her colleagues, and previous award recipients, which makes this honor even more meaningful.”

Snyder is the inaugural occupant of the David Lawrence Jr. Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Studies at UF’s College of Education. Prior to her UF appointment in 2007, she was the founding director of the Early Intervention Institute at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and subsequently was the director of research at Vanderbilt University’s Center for Child Development for two years.

UF Education Dean Glenn Good said Snyder’s selection for the McEvoy Award reflects UF’s national leadership role in early childhood studies. “Dr. Snyder spearheaded the creation of the university’s center for excellence in 2010 by mobilizing the university’s top specialists in early childhood studies for collaborative research and training activities.

“She has worked to create exceptional interdisciplinary programs and projects for her entire career.”

Snyder interacts with a toddler at Baby Gator.

The new center she heads has quickly gathered some early momentum. While UF’s Baby Gator Child Development and Research Center serves as the hub for model demonstration and training activities, Snyder set up the center’s administrative and research offices in newly renovated quarters in the College of Education’s Norman Hall.

Joining Snyder on the center’s interdisciplinary leadership team are Baby Gator director Pam Pallas, education professor James Algina, associate scholar in education Kelly Whalon, and UF pediatrics professors Marylou Behnke and Fonda Davis Eyler. World-class scholar Maureen Conroy also was recruited back to UF for a leadership team post. Conroy promptly landed a $4 million federal grant to examine the efficacy of a social and behavioral intervention in early learning settings. The center also has hired its first research scientist, Tara McLaughlin, a December doctoral graduate of UF’s early childhood-special education program with several national research and editorial honors.

Prominent businesswoman Anita Zucker, a 1972 UF education graduate, kept the momentum building last year when she pledged $1 million to create an endowed professorship in early childhood studies.

In the research arena, Snyder is working on a $6 million federal grant to expand a job-embedded, advanced degree track in early childhood studies and teacher leadership for teachers in Miami-Dade schools. She recently completed a highly competitive, $1.3 million federal grant to study the impact of professional development on preschool teachers’ instructional practices. In early February, she and her colleagues received a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship training grant from the Institute of Education Sciences.

“We are developing new early learning interventions in collaboration with local, state and national partners and supporting the next generation of early-childhood studies leaders and researchers,” Snyder said.

She served as editor of the Journal of Early Intervention from 2002-2007.  Barbara Wolfe, a professor emeritus at the University of St. Thomas, says the high standards Snyder set as editor “played an important role in how early childhood intervention research is viewed and used by others.”

Snyder also advises state and federal early-learning commissions and is a local volunteer for United Way and the Children’s Movement of Florida.

“Pat has had a major impact on the field (of early childhood studies), has contributed significantly to the development of future leaders in our field, and has made a difference in the lives of children and families,” Wolfe wrote in nominating Snyder for the McEvoy Award.

Several of her doctoral students lauded Snyder in their nomination letters for her effective mentorship and the collaborative research opportunities she offers. Concerning her leadership style, Snyder says that among her leadership mantras are to “lead quietly, competently, and by example.”

“I consider it the supreme compliment when peers and practitioners say the quality of their work is enhanced through their collaborations with me, my colleagues, and our students,” Snyder said. “At the end of the day, my litmus test for the work we do is how much it improves services and supports for young children and their families.”


CONTACTS

SOURCE: Patricia Snyder, the Lawrence Endowed Professor in Early Childhood Studies, UF College of Education, 352-273-4291; patriciasnyder@coe.ufl.edu

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

 

 

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UF launches $1.5 million effort to restructure teacher-preparation programs

Aided by a $1.5-million federal grant, the University of Florida has announced plans to restructure the College of Education’s special education teacher-preparation program to meet increasingly higher national standards for new teachers.

Co-researchers McLeskey and Cox

Like many American education colleges, UF is revamping its teacher-education programs to include more practical teaching experience. UF special education professors James McLeskey and Penny Cox are leading the effort.

Politicians, federal education officials and policymakers are holding U.S. colleges of education accountable for teacher education—and ultimately for student learning—as never before. Many cite the need for more hands-on classroom and field experience in teacher preparation programs.

Students in UF’s unified elementary ProTeach program complete a five-year blend of coursework and hands-on teaching experiences, resulting in a master’s degree in elementary education and the option of dual certification in K-12 special education.

McLeskey said UF’s special education program, ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report’s annual survey of America’s Best Graduate Schools, already integrates its theoretical and real-world teaching experiences. Under the grant, though, the researchers are working to relate the two more closely by applying research on effective instructional practices with work being done in real-world classrooms.

The UF effort, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, is called Project RITE—short for Restructuring and Improving Teacher Education. McLeskey and Cox will collaborate with special education professionals across the nation to ensure UF’s ProTeach graduates will be well prepared to improve educational outcomes for students with disabilities.

The researchers will develop a statewide mentoring program that pairs each new special education graduate at UF with an experienced classroom teacher who will provide support and feedback in their first year of teaching. Mentor teachers will be selected in collaboration with local school district administrators for their knowledge of effective teaching methods, experience, and effectiveness in improving outcomes for students who struggle learning basic skills. The program emphasizes high-need schools to better prepare students for Florida’s diverse classrooms.

“Florida is a ‘majority minority’ now,” McLeskey said. “Wherever you go, you’re going to get students from different cultural backgrounds.” McLeskey is UF’s former chair of special education and also directs the college’s Center on Disability and Policy Practice.

“Increasingly, our student-teachers need to learn things in natural contexts, which means they need to spend more time in schools,” he said. “We’re moving teacher preparation much further in the direction of building everything into what they’re doing in the classroom.”

Cox said UF ProTeach students will begin to see the instructional changes next fall.


CONTACTS

SOURCES:  James McLeskey, professor of special education, UF College Education; mcleskey@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4278

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

WRITER: Jessica Bradley, communications intern, UF College of Education.

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COE-P.K. Yonge researchers head $5 million effort to transform middle-school science education

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida education researchers will lead a $5 million effort, funded by the National Science Foundation, to transform how science is taught in Florida’s middle schools, with high-need schools in 20 mostly rural school districts serving as the testing grounds.

The researchers are chasing an ambitious goal — to close the gap in science learning between U.S. students and their peers in higher performing nations. Scores from a 2010 Program for International Student Assessment report showed the U.S. ranked 17th out of 34 industrialized countries in science scores among 15-year-old students.

Lynda Hayes

“We want to shift middle school science teaching to a goals-driven approach with learning experiences that excite and engage all students. This will increase their chances of success as students transition from middle school to more advanced high school science courses,” said Lynda Hayes, an affiliate faculty member at UF’s College of Education and director of P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, the college’s K-12 laboratory school.

“To catch up with our peers in other nations, we need to increase the size and diversity of our pipelines in science and math after high school graduation,” added Hayes. “We must ensure that disadvantaged students in small, rural and high-poverty schools are afforded equal opportunity to succeed in a cutting-edge science curriculum before they reach high school.”

Hayes is principal investigator of the five-year NSF project. Her UF co-investigators are science education professor Rose Pringle and Mary Jo Koroly, professor and director of biochemistry and molecular biology. Suzette Pelton, STEM coordinator of the Levy County School District, a project core partner, is also a co-principal investigator. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Recruiting and retaining more highly qualified middle and high school science teachers is a critical workforce need. The NSF project’s reform strategy calls for boosting student achievement by improving science content knowledge and professional development among practicing middle-school teachers.

The researchers are banking on an award-winning, on-the-job graduate degree program developed at UF called Teacher Leadership and School Improvement, with a focus on science education, to train “Science Teacher Leaders” in new, research-proven practices in science instruction. The TLSI program won the Association of Teacher Education’s coveted 2011 Distinguished Program in Teacher Education Award.

TLSI blends 36 credit-hours of online and face-to-face instruction by UF professors. The program is free for participating teachers with the NSF grant covering their tuition, valued at $21,000 each. Another novel aspect of the coursework is its “inquiry-based” approach, in which the teacher-students collaboratively assess their own teaching practices and share new knowledge with each other.

UF’s College of Education will enroll one teacher from each partnering school district in the degree program, which upon graduation will qualify them as district Science Teacher Leaders.

“In exchange for free tuition, the Science Teacher Leaders must remain at their high-needs schools for five years, including their two-year coursework,” Hayes said. “This will help our most challenging middle schools support and retain some of their best science teachers.”

Rose Pringle...co-PI

Armed with new science knowledge and a research-proven curriculum, the highly-trained Science Teacher Leaders will form and lead “professional learning communities” of their peers—each leader training 10 teachers at their own schools and neighboring middle schools to continuously study science teaching practices and student learning. Their students, in sixth through eighth grade, will be taught the same inquiry-based science practices and critical-thinking methods that the teacher leaders learned in their own coursework.

“Our Science Teacher Leadership Institute will allow 40 middle school science teachers in 20 school districts to earn their master’s degree in science education in two years and coach 400 middle school science teachers in their home districts,” said co-investigator Pringle, the UF science education professor. “The Science Teacher Leaders will work as change agents to lead district-wide transformation in middle school science teaching and learning. Nearly 60,000 middle school students will be impacted, primarily in high-poverty rural and urban areas.”

Participating school districts will come from the Northeast Florida Educational Consortium — a support organization for 15 districts spanning from the Gulf coast to the Atlantic coast in north and central Florida. Five other counties also have committed: Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Union and Suwannee.

P.K. Yonge science teacher Mayra Cordero, pictured, will host a demonstration class for Science Teacher Leader trainees.

Under Hayes’ guidance, UF’s P.K. Yonge laboratory school began testing the experimental curriculum last year and is working with Joseph Krajcik, a leading authority on science curriculum development from Michigan State University, to align the curriculum with Florida’s rigorous new science standards. P.K. Yonge’s middle school science program will host demonstration classrooms to help train the Science Teacher Leaders.

Researchers will compare the impact of the new teaching approaches with conventional practices and disseminate their findings nationwide to drive science education reform in middle schools around the state and nation.

Other UF units contributing to course design, training, implementation and project evaluation include the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Center for Precollegiate Education and Training, the Division of Continuing Education and the CAPES (Collaborative Assessment and Program Evaluation Services) program, headed by professor David Miller in the College of Education.


CONTACTS

SOURCE: Lynda Hayes, university school professor at UF’s College of Education and director of P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School (UF’s K-12 laboratory school), lhayes@pky.ufl.edu; 352-392-1554, ext. 223

SOURCE: Rose Pringle, associate professor, science education, UF’s College of Education; rpringle@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4190

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

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International group cites Ed.D. graduate’s online-learning research

Julia Carpenter, a recent UF doctoral (Ed.D.) graduate in educational technology, has been awarded the Online Learning Innovator Award for Outstanding Research from iNACOL, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, for her dissertation study on increasing student motivation and completion rates in online courses.

Motivation is key in virtual schooling, where students take an active role in their self-directed learning. Carpenter used a special “course-interest” survey instrument to poll 78 ninth-grade students in an online English course at Florida Virtual School. She found that the most motivating factors for online students were frequent instructor communication and constructive instructor feedback. She also discovered that experienced instructors more effectively built student confidence and satisfaction. Their expertise, she concluded, would be valuable in building professional training for novice online instructors.

The iNACOL Online Learning Innovator Award is highly competitive, drawing some 30 entries from higher education institutions across the nation. Carpenter will accept her award at iNACOL’s Virtual School Symposium in Indianapolis on Nov. 9.

Carpenter graduated in August with her Ed.D. in educational technology as part of the first graduating class for the new online degree program in curriculum and instruction, with an emphasis in educational technology. She is a senior instructional systems designer at defense contractor General Dynamics’ information-technology unit in Orlando. UF’s education technology program also has appointed her as an adjunct instructor starting the spring semester.

Her research was supervised by Cathy Cavanaugh, UF associate professor in education technology, who has also received research awards from iNACOL. The international nonprofit group, based in Washington, D.C., has more than 3,800 members and works through advocacy, research and professional development to drive future directions in K-12 online education.

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Ed tech’s Kumar shares outstanding e-learning paper award

Swapna Kumar

Co-authors Swapna Kumar, clinical assistant professor in educational technology, and Marilyn Ochoa, assistant head of the Education Library in UF’s Norman Hall, recently won the Outstanding E-Learn Paper Award from the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education.

Kumar coordinates the online Ed.D program in educational technology and realized the need for library instruction for first-semester doctoral students. The paper outlined a needs assessment and their findings on how to better prepare online students to access and evaluate available research.

Ochoa accepted the award and presented their paper in October at the World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare and Higher Education in Hawaii. She has been a librarian at the Education Library since 2007.

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UF receives $2 million to assess students’ grasp of statistics under new national math standards

 

GAINESVILLE, Fla.—Supported by a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, University of Florida math education researcher Tim Jacobbe is leading a multi-center effort to create high-quality testing instruments in statistics, which will help teachers keep middle and high school students on track for meeting rigorous, new national math standards.

With 45 states, including Florida, already adopting new Common Core national math standards developed in 2010, many school districts are expected to add or expand the teaching of statistics in the middle and high school grades. Researchers, though, say more reliable assessment tools are needed to measure their progress accurately.

UF's Tim Jacobbe, lead investigator for the NSF multi-center study, explains a statistics principle to a UF math education student.

“We’ll base our testing instrument on American Statistical Association guidelines that identify three developmental levels for learning statistics. Students must progress through each level to develop sound statistical reasoning skills,” said Jacobbe, UF assistant professor of mathematics education and principal investigator of the NSF-funded study. “The new assessment tool will help teachers assess where students are at the beginning of the school year so they can plan instruction for the appropriate level of statistical understanding.”

Besides UF’s College of Education, the four-year study also involves scholars in statistics and assessment from the University of Minnesota, Kenyon College and the Educational Testing Service, an independent, nonprofit organization based in Princeton, N.J.

The Common Core State Standards are a blueprint for what all American students should learn in English and math, in each grade, from kindergarten through high school. They were coordinated in 2010 by the National Governors Association and a national council of chief state school officers for K-12 education. Florida schools are scheduled to start using the new standards by the 2013-2014 school year.

“Statistical thinking is very different from mathematical thinking and needs to be taught and assessed in a different manner,” Jacobbe said.

Current statistical instruction and assessment are grade level-specific, but Jacobbe said his research team is following a model identifying the three levels of understanding of key statistical concepts, regardless of a student’s grade level.

About 2,850 students in grades 6-12 will participate in the UF-led study. Two school districts, in Florida and Georgia, will administer initial pilot-testing of the experimental assessment methods. (The Florida school district is P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, UF’s K-12 laboratory school, which serves as its own school district). They will be joined by school districts in Arizona, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania for large-scale testing in the study’s fourth year.

The researchers will work closely with two national consortia of state leaders in government, business and education which last year received a combined $330 million in federal Race to the Top funds to create the next generation of tests to measure annual student growth in English and math. The two groups are the 25-state Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers, known as PARCC, which includes Florida, and the 31-state SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium.

To broaden the impact of their work, Jacobbe said his team will report its study results in peer-review journals and at peer-review academic meetings and will create a website featuring sample assessment tools and other resources for teaching statistics.

“Consistent standards in statistics and mathematics will provide appropriate benchmarks for all students regardless of where they live, and that’s critical in today’s global economy,” Jacobbe said.


CONTACTS
Source:
Tim Jacobbe, assistant professor, mathematics education, Jacobbe@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4232
Writer:
Larry Lansford, director, COE News & Communications, llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

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Special ed researchers winning competition for federal grants

UF principal investigators on active federal IES grants, pictured from left, are Stephen Smith, Mary Brownell, Ann Daunic, Maureen Conroy and Joseph Gagnon. (PIs Cynthia Griffin and Patricia Snyder were unavailable for group photo; they are pictured below.)

Faculty researchers in the University of Florida’s special education program, ranked fourth nationally, have built an impressive track record for winning large, highly competitive grants from the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Education Department.

College of Education researchers in early childhood and special education recently received two IES grants worth a combined $5.5 million, supporting two studies aimed at reducing problem behaviors and improving the classroom learning environment. UF professor Maureen Conroy, working under a $4 million award, is examining the efficacy of an experimental intervention in early learning settings—called BEST in CLASS—that showed high promise in a preliminary study. The second grant, worth $1.5 million, supports professors Stephen Smith and Ann Daunic who are developing a lesson series teaching middle school students with significant behavior problems techniques to control their emotions and behavior in social situations.

“Grants awarded by the Institute of Education Sciences are selected because they are the most innovative, important and well-designed projects in a huge pool of applications,” says Jonathon Shuster, a faculty research professor with UF’s Institute for Child Health Policy. “These studies are large in scope with potentially huge payoffs. If new generalized ways can be found for interventions, the investment will be returned thousands of times over by translating these methods to the nation.”

These two latest awards raise the total number of IES grants held by UF special education faculty in 2011 to eight—worth a combined total of more than $15 million. Smith and Daunic recently completed another $1.6 million intervention study that helps students deal with aggressive behavioral issues in the classroom. Supported by a $2 million award, Mary Brownell and colleagues in Colorado and California have developed research-proven professional development packages to help practicing teachers advance their literacy instruction skills for students with learning challenges. Brownell, Smith and Daunic have documented the positive impacts of their respective studies on student reading achievement and behavior.

Four other IES grants active in 2011, each worth about $1.5 million, support other vital projects in special education:

— Daunic, Smith and Nancy Corbett are developing a reading curriculum that combines storybook reading techniques with social stories to encourage students’ critical thinking about managing their emotions and behavior;

Cynthia Griffin

— Joseph Gagnon and Holly Lane are evaluating new literacy instruction and professional development methods for helping teens in juvenile corrections facilities improve their reading skills while they are incarcerated;

— Cynthia Griffin and co-investigators Stephen Pape (mathematics education) and Nancy Dana (teacher leadership for school improvement) are developing an online professional development program for elementary school math teachers serving students with learning disabilities.

Patricia Snyder portrait

Patricia Snyder

— And, in studies involving seven institutions, UF’s Patricia Snyder and co-researchers are documenting the effectiveness of new professional development packages focused on preschool teachers’ use of embedded-instruction practices and the impact of social and emotional influences on early learning.


CONTACT:
Writer
: Larry Lansford, News & Communications, UF College of Education, llansford@coe.ufl.edu; (352) 273-4137

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Researchers awarded $5.5M in grants to help teachers reduce disruptive classroom behavior

University of Florida education researchers have received two federal grants totaling $5.5 million to conduct studies aimed at reducing significant behavior problems in children that can disrupt the classroom learning environment.

Their intervention research targets at-risk children during two of the most critical times of their development—before they enter kindergarten and the transitional middle school years (grades 6 through 8). The highly competitive grants were awarded by Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education.

Maureen Conroy

The prekindergarten study, funded by a $4 million grant, is a joint effort between special education and early-childhood specialists at UF and Virginia Commonwealth University. Co-researchers Maureen Conroy of UF and Kevin Sutherland of VCU will examine the efficacy of their experimental intervention—called BEST in CLASS—that showed high promise in a preliminary study.

The four-year investigation will involve 120 voluntary prekindergarten classrooms, most of them in Head Start programs, split between UF’s home region in North Central Florida and VCU’s hometown of Richmond, Va. Each year, 90 children identified as high-risk for emotional and behavioral disorders will undergo the intervention; a second group of 90 at-risk children will serve as a comparison group.

“As many as one-fourth of children in Head Start classes exhibit significant problem behaviors that place them at elevated risk for future development, and most have never been in structured classroom situations before,” Conroy said. “Through 14 weeks of classroom-based coaching, we will train teachers to implement effective instructional strategies for improving children’s emotional behavior competence.”

Conroy said the BEST in CLASS model emphasizes both individual and class-wide interventions to improve interactions between the teacher and students and enhance the overall classroom atmosphere for learning.

“Teachers discuss classroom rules and routines with students and praise specific positive behavior—for example, sitting and waiting their turn in a circle during a game or sharing time,” she said. “Such strategies aren’t necessarily new, but we show teachers how to use them more precisely and intensely for given situations.

“The teacher works to prevent any problem behaviors during typical classroom activities.”

The treatment also has a home-school component where teachers send home a daily “behavior report card” stating, in a positive manner, how their child behaved or which corrective behaviors they learned that day.

Stephen Smith

The second federal grant, worth $1.5 million, supports the work of University of Florida special education professors Stephen Smith and Ann Daunic, who are developing a lesson series teaching middle school students with significant behavior problems techniques to control their emotions and behavior in social situations.

“The middle school years are difficult enough for students in their pre-teen and early adolescent years. Those with serious emotional and behavioral disorders face tremendous obstacles to learning,” Smith said. “They require focused attention to help them develop the essential skills for modifying their behavior, and we need to catch them before they drop out of school or end up in the juvenile or adult justice systems.”

Smith and Daunic are developing a curriculum for teachers of children with emotional and behavioral disorders, and they’ve given it a name—In Control—that’s as much a mantra for the students as it is the title of their program. It’s actually a two-unit, 26-lesson curriculum that shows students how their minds work and how they can use that knowledge to take control over their own behavior and their learning process.

“We are developing lessons that tap self-control skills such as monitoring your thoughts, inhibiting impulses, planning better, and adapting to changing situations,” Smith said. “These high-level skills—known collectively as ‘executive functions’—are fundamental to helping students set personal goals, control their emotions and improve their social problem-solving abilities.”

Ann Daunic

Starting in August, the researchers will spend two years developing and testing the In Control lessons in collaboration with special education teachers, school counselors and school psychologists at two Gainesville schools—Lincoln and Fort Clarke middle schools. Participating students will be from small classrooms especially for students with emotional and behavioral disorders.

Smith and Daunic will continually refine and polish the curriculum and expand testing in the third year. If their curriculum effectively improves students’ behavior and learning, the researchers will publish their preliminary findings and develop a professional development package for additional large-scale testing.

“Up to 10 percent of middle school students have significant behavioral issues that merit some attention outside of what is normally provided in our education system,” Smith said. “There aren’t many intervention resources available for these students that are effective and teacher-friendly. Our comprehensive program will provide long-term instructional impact.”


CONTACTS
Source
: Maureen Conroy, professor in special education and early childhood studies, UF College of Education, 352-273-4382; mconroy@coe.ufl.edu

Source
: Stephen Smith, professor in special education, UF College of Education, 352-273-4263; swsmith@coe.ufl.edu

Source
: Ann Daunic, associate scholar in special education, UF College of Education, 352-273-4270; adaunic@coe.ufl.edu

Writer:
Larry Lansford, Office of News & Communications, UF College of Education,; 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

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UF to host statewide symposium June 13 addressing plight of ‘vanishing Latino males’ in Florida’s schools and colleges

GAINESVILLE, Fla.—Education and community leaders and Latino male students from Alachua County and around the state will gather at a University of Florida-hosted, interactive symposium June 13 to discuss strategies for helping Latino males overcome the overwhelming barriers they continue to face in Florida’s schools and colleges.

Ponjuan

The “Latino Boys in Peril” workshop will be held from 8:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. at UF’s Emerson Alumni Hall. Attendance is by invitation only.

UF’s College of Education is hosting the event, led by faculty researchers Luis Ponjuan, director of the college’s Institute of Higher Education, and counselor education scholar Mary Ann Clark.

The researchers will lead an interactive discussion of their findings from a recent, year-long investigation of Florida’s educational system. “We will actively discuss the challenges and the potential partnerships we could forge to develop new interventions that may assist Latino students in their educational journey from high school completion to college enrollment and degree completion,” Ponjuan said.

Clark

Ponjuan, Clark and co-researcher Victor Saenz from the University of Texas at Austin, who will also participate in the UF symposium, have been active in educational and political circles nationwide over the past couple years raising awareness of the plight of Latino male students in education, especially in higher education.

“An emerging trend shows that young men of color—particularly Latino Americans—are far less likely to attend or stay in college than other young men and women,” said Ponjuan, who last year participated in a national briefing on the topic on Capitol Hill.  “Considerable attention has been given to the plight of African-American males, but declining enrollment among young Latino men is even more pronounced. It’s a silent educational crisis because young Latino males are vanishing in higher education and no one is noticing.”

Latinos are now 15 percent of the U.S. population. Yet Latinos, or Hispanics, earn only 6 percent of all bachelor’s degrees, according to the American Council on Education. This is significantly less than whites, blacks and Asians. Latino males also have one of the lowest high school graduation and college enrollment rates in the country.

The research and UF symposium is supported by a grant from TG Foundation, a public, non-profit scholarship and educational support organization based in Round Rock, Tex.


CONTACTS

SOURCE: Luis Ponjuan, director, University of Florida Institute of Higher Education, UF College of Education, 352-273-4313; lponjuan@coe.ufl.edu

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

 

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Lastinger study aids $8M effort to help at-risk children in south Fla.

NAPLES, FL — A recent study by the University of Florida’s Lastinger Center for Learning was key in helping a south Florida community divide nearly $8 million in charitable grants among local social service agencies to meet the needs of more than 50,000 underprivileged and at-risk children.

The Naples (Fla.) Children and Education Foundation had commissioned the UF study to evaluate the current conditions and needs of children in Collier County and to document the impact of the group’s previous investments on the children’s lives. The UF researchers evaluated local aid programs such as medical and dental services, early childhood education and after-school programs, and program evaluation.

Don Pemberton

Don Pemberton, the study director and head of the UF Lastinger Center, said the UF research team interviewed NCEF, community and school leaders, reviewed social service agency reports and Internet sites, and analyzed date from multiple county, state and federal agencies.

NCEF officials said the UF study showed progress had occurred in serving children’s medical and dental needs, but also revealed huge spikes in children’s hunger and homelessness due to the economy, and indicated mental health and out-of-school needs remain critical.

“The study shows that NCEF has gotten off to a very good start, but there is a lot more to be done,” said NCEF trustee and grant chairwoman Anne Welsh McNulty.

During a ceremony in April, 22 charities received checks from the foundation totaling $5.8 million to help fund programs and services and expand offerings to children. Grants ranged from $25,000 to St. Matt’s Camps for Kids program to $1 million for the Boys & Girls Club of Collier County. NCEF also awarded more than $2 million for multi-year initiatives aimed at fighting hunger, addressing behavioral health issues and increasing early-learning opportunities for the community’s youngest children.

“We’re honored that the Naples Children & Education Foundation commissioned us to conduct a study of child well-being in Collier County and issue recommendations for improvements,” Pemberton said. “The foundation has a stellar track record in creating innovative solutions to transform child well-being.”


CONTACTS

SOURCE: Don Pemberton, director, UF Lastinger Center, UF College of Education, dpemberton@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4103
WRITER
: Larry Lansford, director, news and communications, UF College of Education;
llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137

 

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Special ed researcher is first to receive provost’s junior faculty award

Gagnon

University of Florida special education researcher Joseph Gagnon recently became the first College of Education faculty member to receive the UF Provost’s Excellence Award for Assistant Professors.

The annual honor recognizes up and coming junior faculty members from several colleges across campus for excellence in research. The award comes with a $5,000 stipend that recipients can use to fund travel, equipment, graduate students and other research-related expenses.

Gagnon is garnering national attention for his innovative research linking youths with emotional-behavioral disorders and learning disabilities and the services provided in juvenile correctional facilities and psychiatric schools. His research has been published in top journals in the field including Exceptional Children, Journal of Special Education, and Journal of Child and Family Studies and he frequently presents and national at international conferences.

A UF education faculty member since 2007, he has garnered nearly $3 million in external research grants and has served as the principal Investigator or co-PI on five highly competitive grants from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences and other prestigious organizations.

He has developed an impressive record of collaboration with UF faculty experts in law and medicine and holds an affiliated faculty appointment with the law school’s Center on Children and Families. He also serves as an expert consultant for several states’ juvenile justice systems under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Justice.

He received a College of Education Faculty Scholarship of Engagement Award in 2010 for his research on educational policies and programs for students in confinement. He also has published extensively on mathematics instruction for secondary students with emotional disorders and learning disabilities.

Gagnon has a doctorate in special education-behavior disorders from the University of Maryland at College Park.


CONTACTS

SOURCE: Joseph Gagnon, assistant professor in special education, 352-273-4262; jgagnon@coe.ufl.edu
WRITER:
Larry Lansford, director, news & communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137; llansford@coe.ufl.edu

 

 

 

 

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UF taps Griffin for prestigious research foundation professorship

Cynthia Griffin

University of Florida special education professor Cynthia Griffin, recognized nationally for her research on teaching mathematics to students with disabilities, has been named a UF Research Foundation (UFRF) Professor for 2011-2014.

Griffin, a top-funded research professor in the College of Education, is one of 33 UF faculty scholars selected for the prestigious professorships. The UF Research Foundation awards the professorships annually to tenured faculty who have made recent contributions in research and have a strong research agenda likely to lead to continuing distinction in their fields. The three-year award includes a $5,000 annual salary supplement and a one-time $3,000 grant to support their research.

“Dr. Griffin has risen to national prominence for her scholarly leadership in linking mathematics education and special education, and she brings prestige to our school and college,” said Jean Crockett, director of special education, school psychology and early childhood studies (SESPECS) at the College of Education.

Griffin is building an impressive track record for winning highly-competitive federal grant funding for her studies. She currently holds $2.3 million in research and doctoral training grants from the prestigious Institute for Education Sciences.

She received an $800,000 doctoral leadership training grant in 2008 from the U.S. Education Department’s office of special education programs to prepare four doctoral students in special education and math instruction. That same year, the College of Education awarded Griffin with a three-year, B.O. Smith Research Professorship to study how teachers’ content knowledge and classroom practices in mathematics influenced their students’ learning.

She and co-researchers last year received a $1.5 million grant from IES to develop and refine an online professional development program targeting practicing general and special-education elementary teachers who teach math to students with learning disabilities.

Griffin became a full-time UF education faculty member in 1990 and is the college’s associate director for research and graduate studies in SESPECS.

She is co-author of a text on inclusive instruction due to be published in 2012 by Guilford Press. Since 2006, Griffin has published 18 research articles in leading scholarly journals including the Journal of Educational Research, Journal of Educational Psychology, and Teacher Education and Special Education.


CONTACTS

SOURCE: Cynthia Griffin, professor in special education, ccgriffin@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4265

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