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News from July 2017

Sharon Vaughn, Sarah Powell to be featured at Central Texas Dyslexia Conference
July 25, 2017

MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn and Principal Investigator Sarah Powell will share their expertise as featured presenters at the Central Texas Dyslexia Conference this fall in Austin. 

Vaughn will be a featured speaker for the event, which will be held October 19 at the Austin Independent School District Performing Arts Center. Her presentation, "Reading Strategies That Work," will explore the features of successful reading interventions in grades 4 to 8 and the importance of explicit and systematic phonics instruction.

Powell will lead a breakout session titled "Math Strategies That Work." She will discuss areas of difficulty, explicit instruction, the concrete-to-abstract continuum, fact fluency, and word problems.

According to the website, the conference "will help teachers and parents by identifying the cognitive strengths common among dyslexic students and will explain how to nurture these gifts in dyslexic students. In addition, dyslexia experts will provide instructional best practices proven to help dyslexic students improve reading fluency, comprehension, and math skills."

For more information on this free event, including registration and a full schedule, visit the conference website.

New project to examine practices for improving reading comprehension and reducing anxiety
July 10, 2017

The National Institutes of Health has awarded researchers at The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk and Boston University a $2.9 million, 5-year grant to investigate practices for improving reading comprehension and reducing reading anxiety of fourth- and fifth-grade students with reading difficulties.

The grant will allow MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn and Amie Grills of Boston University to build on their previous research investigating the relation between reading difficulties and reading anxiety and approaches to improving reading performance and reducing anxiety. Their previous research demonstrates a high prevalence of anxiety among children experiencing reading difficulties. To address this problem, Grills and Vaughn conducted a pilot study examining the effects of a reading intervention program that featured strategies for reducing anxiety. Their research findings provide preliminary evidence that significant reductions in anxiety occur when students receive anxiety-management instruction within a reading intervention.

Over the next 5 years, the researchers will further develop and test an integrated approach in a randomized clinical trial with students in Texas and Massachusetts. Students randomized to receive the intervention will participate for 2 consecutive years beginning in fourth grade. Instructional practices for reducing anxiety will focus on three core areas: (1) recognizing feelings and understanding how thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are related; (2) practicing various relaxation and stress-management skills; and (3) recognizing anxious and unhelpful thoughts and changing them. These practices will be embedded within reading intervention lessons found in previous studies to improve student decoding and reading comprehension outcomes. The project team will evaluate the effects of the reading and anxiety practices by examining student performance on reading and socioemotional measures.

“This is a very exciting opportunity to conduct a relatively unique approach to better understanding whether we can both reduce anxiety and improve reading outcomes for students with significant reading problems," Grills said.

For more information about this project, visit the project webpage.

Tags: Reading Institute  Improving Reading and Reducing Reading Anxiety Among Students With Reading Difficulties 

News from June 2017

MCPER math experts publish guidance on research-based practices for all grades
June 7, 2017

In a new article, MCPER Mathematics Institute Director Diane Bryant and Principal Investigator Sarah Powell provide a consise summary of the mathematics practices that are supported by the best evidence and can be implemented every day in all grades. 

"Making the Numbers Add Up: What Solid Research Tells Us About Teaching Math" appears in the June issue of Texas Lone Star, a publication of the Texas Association of School Boards. In the article, Bryant and Powell explore the importance of teaching mathematics vocabulary; having students show their work; and starting early on the path to college and career readiness—in elementary school—by ensuring that young students develop fluency and automaticity with computation, and with addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. 

The article also points readers to MCPER's 10 Key Mathematics Practices for All Elementary Schools and 10 Key Mathematics Practices for All Middle and High Schools. Both guides include practical, research-based recommendations that states, school districts, and schools can use to improve students' mathematics outcomes.

For more information on MCPER's mathematics work, visit the Mathematics Institute for Learning Disabilities and Difficulties

Tags: Mathematics Institute for Learning Disabilities and Difficulties 

News from May 2017

MCPER’s Gleb Furman honored at national event for graduate student research
May 3, 2017

MCPER's Gleb Furman won the In-Progress Research Award for his research poster presentation at the American Educational Research Association Division D Graduate Student In-Progress Research Gala in San Antonio. 

Furman's poster was among nine finalists selected to present at the gala. And among those finalists, he was one of three selected to present on his research at an invited session at next year's meeting.

The following is from the poster's abstract: "Use of the multiple membership random effects model (MMREM) has gained recent popularity in educational statistics and various other social and health sciences. The MMREM allows one to appropriately model multilevel data where level 1 units move across level 2 units, as in the case of mobile students. Weights are used to estimate the contribution of each cluster on level 1 units' outcomes; however, research into the impact of misspecifying these weights and the ability to compare model fit given different weight specifications is limited and often suggests that weight specification may not matter. A sensitivity analysis found substantial differences in the variance/covariance estimates of fixed effects when slopes were free to vary. The proposed study seeks to expand this research to a more complex random intercept and slopes model and to determine the extent to which the deviance information criterion (DIC) can be used to compare different weight specifications on model fit."

News from April 2017

Write for Texas publishes report showcasing success stories
April 24, 2017

Since 2014, Write for Texas has promoted and supported improved academic writing instruction in the secondary grades through a cadre of regionally based instructional coaches and an extensive collection of online resources available at no cost to all educators.

Instructional coaches employed by the 27 regional project sites work with a variety of educators in grades 6 through 12 to provide opportunities for students to read, write, and discuss a variety of genres throughout the school year. From developing workshops for administrators and teachers to modeling lessons in classrooms, the coaches improve the instructional landscape in participating schools and districts.

Success Stories From a Literacy Initiative showcases one successful aspect of Write for Texas work at each site, helping to illustrate the breadth and depth of work happening locally and statewide. These snapshots are meant not only to document and recognize the work of these Write for Texas sites, but also to inform and inspire other educators to adopt similar practices.

The site snapshots are organized into the following sections, which begin with introductions containing general advice or tips for educators:

  • Focus on Classroom Coaching
  • Spotlight on District and Administrator Support
  • Think Big to Reach Groups of Teachers

Write for Texas 

News from March 2017

New resource: National Center on Improving Literacy launches website
March 30, 2017

The National Center on Improving Literacy, a partnership including longtime MCPER collaborators at Florida State University and the University of Oregon, has launched a new website. "The center is funded to provide technical assistance to families to improve literacy outcomes for children in pre-K through grade 12 with (or at risk of) literacy-related disabilities, including dyslexia," according to an announcement. The website includes resources for families, schools, communities, and states.

MCPER and Boston University seek applications for postdoctoral researcher
March 29, 2017

MCPER and the School of Education at Boston University are seeking applications for a postdoctoral researcher to work on a multisite research grant under the mentorship of MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn and Boston University associate professor Amie Grills. 

The 5-year, multisite randomized clinical trial is funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The project will evaluate the innovative integration of evidence-based practices for reducing anxiety and improving reading among middle grade students who struggle with reading. Students in grades 4–5 will be included in this study, which will take place in elementary schools in the Austin, Texas, and Boston, Massachusetts, areas.

The selected Fellow will be located at the Boston University site and will have a leadership role on this project, assuming responsibilities that may include: (a) assisting in general project oversight, management, and site recruitment; (b) supervising data collection, management, and implementation; (c) applying methodological and data analytic approaches in addressing research questions; and (d) collaborating on research presentations, publications, and practice and policy reports. The establishment of unique and independent strands of research culminating in the solicitation of future grant funding will be encouraged. In addition, the Fellow will receive (a) mentored professional development, independent writing, and grant development; (b) immersion in large-scale research drawing from multiple disciplines (e.g., clinical psychology, special education); (c) didactic research training; and (d) tailored professional development geared toward the Fellow’s career aspirations (e.g., teaching, university leadership experience). The initial appointment will be for 2 years, with the potential for subsequent reappointment or promotion. 

Qualified applicants will have obtained a degree in a social science field with a focus on developmental science (e.g., clinical psychology, educational psychology, special education, child development/family studies) by the start of the position. Those with a demonstrated publication record or excellent writing ability and a background in clinical child psychology, reading disabilities, and/or school-based intervention delivery are strongly encouraged to apply. Experience with project management and quantitative statistical methods is a plus.

Application materials should be submitted electronically to Dr. Amie E. Grills at agrills@bu.edu. Please send (1) a cover letter that briefly summarizes qualifications, research experience, and career goals; (2) a complete curriculum vitae; (3) one or two publications or writing samples; and (4) two letters of recommendation (at least one from a faculty advisor or mentor). Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled.

News from February 2017

MCPER receives $2 million award from Meadows Foundation
February 17, 2017

The Meadows Foundation recently awarded $2 million to MCPER, completing its $4 million funding commitment. For a full story on the award—including quotes from MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn, Bruce Esterline of the Meadows Foundation, and College of Education Dean Manuel Justiz—visit the College of Education website.

News from November 2016

Television news feature on Write for Texas project highlights student gains
November 22, 2016

In an education segment on ABC News 7 Amarillo, Write for Texas participants described the positive impact the project has had on their students' writing.

Andrea DeCarlo, a teacher at Dumas High School; Nikole Foote, an instructional coach at Dumas; and Cassie Swan, program contact at Education Service Center Region 16, reported that students are less afraid to put their ideas into written form—a common issue in the past. “We are seeing kids actually put their thought process into writing now in math, science, and social studies—not just English,” Foote said.

Swan added that writing in all subject areas and using supports like sentence stems and other techniques promoted by Write for Texas are all part of an effort to “make sure all of our kids write for life.”

View the video and read the accompanying article on the ABC News 7 website.

Write for Texas 

Project STRIVE making an impact on Texas teachers and students
November 2, 2016

MCPER’s Strategies for Reading Information and Vocabulary Effectively (STRIVE) project is collaborating with school districts in Central and South Texas to provide professional development and research-based instructional materials to fourth-grade teachers.

Over the course of the large-scale, 3-year research study, more than 200 fourth-grade teachers from more than 80 schools will receive training on practices to improve reading and social studies knowledge, reaching more than 5,000 students.

To date, fourth-grade teachers from 25 elementary schools have attended interactive training on the STRIVE lessons in preparation for implementing the practices in their classrooms this year. Anchored to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), the STRIVE lessons incorporate evidence-based reading practices targeting reading comprehension, vocabulary, and social studies content knowledge. In addition to the initial training, STRIVE teachers participate in several follow-up study team meetings to reflect on and discuss instructional practices.

Teachers are beginning to see the fruits of their labor. "I am already seeing positive changes in my students," said Emi Anderson, a fourth-grade teacher at Hirsch Elementary School in San Antonio. “The program has improved their ability to share and constructively question their classmates' ideas. My students are using the STRIVE reading and collaborative learning skills in other subjects, too."

Building on a prior Institute of Education Sciences Goal 2 intervention development grant, MCPER researchers will measure and compare the effects of STRIVE relative to a control condition to examine the efficacy of the professional development. The large number of students participating provides strong statistical power and reliability.

In the meantime, those involved with the program suggest that STRIVE is having a positive impact. "There is really a positive buzz about STRIVE in San Antonio ISD,” said District Administrator Ramses Escobedo. “The teachers participating in the project have said it is going well, and additional schools have asked to participate in STRIVE next year."

For more information, visit the STRIVE project page.

Tags: Reading Institute  Strategies for Reading Information and Vocabulary Effectively (STRIVE)