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News from September 2013

Boston University researcher to explore how elementary students read polysyllabic words
September 24, 2013

In an upcoming presentation, Devin Kearns, an assistant professor of special education at Boston University, will explore descriptive data to answer the question: Do third- and fourth-graders view long words as polysyllabic or polymorphemic? Kearns will present "De + ci + sions, Decide + sions, Decisions: How Do Elementary-Age Children Read Polysyllabic Words?" from 2 to 3 p.m. on September 26 in the Dean's Lounge (SZB 238). To RSVP, send an e-mail with "Kearns" in the subject line to

Kearns has provided professional development and designed curricula for the University of California, Los Angeles; Vanderbilt University, where he received his doctorate; and Teach for America. For his doctoral work, Kearns worked on a large-scale investigation of the Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies supplemental reading program and on a study of the cognitive causes of reading disability. He recently worked on a project to prevent reading difficulties in first-grade students, for which he and others designed phonics instruction.

Tags: Reading Institute 

News from August 2013

What Works Clearinghouse report supports effectiveness of PACT intervention
August 26, 2013

A study that found significant, positive effects for the Promoting Adolescents' Comprehension of Text (PACT) intervention has received the backing of the prestigious What Works Clearinghouse (WWC). In a Single Study Review, the WWC found that the study "meets WWC evidence standards without reservation," adding that it is a "well-implemented randomized controlled trial." The study was originally reported in the Reading Research Quarterly article "Improving Reading Comprehension and Social Studies Knowledge in Middle School," written by PACT Principal Investigators Sharon Vaughn and Elizabeth Swanson; and researchers Greg Roberts, Stephanie Stillman-Spisak, and Michael Solis of MCPER; Jeanne Wanzek of Florida State University; and Deborah Simmons of Texas A&M University.

In its Single Study Reviews, the WWC—an initiative of the Institute for Education Sciences—assesses an individual study's quality of research design and reports on technical details about the study’s design and findings.

Tags: Reading Institute  Promoting Adolescents’ Comprehension of Text 

Reading Institute researchers publish two articles
August 22, 2013

Researchers with MCPER's Reading Institute have published two new articles in peer-reviewed journals. Audrey Leroux wrote "A Comparison of Stopping Rules for Computerized Adaptive Screening Measures Using the Rating Scale Model" with Barbara Dodd of The University of Texas at Austin. The article is set to appear in Journal of Applied Measurement in 2014. Leroux and Myriam Lopez wrote "A Comparison of Exposure Control Procedures in CATs Using the 3PL Model" with Ian Hembry and Dodd of UT Austin. The article will appear in a 2013 edition of Educational and Psychological Measurement.

Tags: Reading Institute 

News from July 2013

News from June 2013

Del Valle Independent School District nominates MCPER for Distinguished Partnership Award
June 18, 2013

MCPER has been nominated for the Del Valle Independent School District Distinguished Partnership Award in recognition of the Texas Center for Learning Disabilities' work in the district. MCPER's Michael Solis, John McKenna, and Jessica Kelly attended an awards banquet on May 28 to receive a plaque and be recognized for the nomination. Joyce Bannerot, principal of Popham Elementary School, officially nominated the project.

For more information on the project, visit the TCLD external website.

Tags: Reading Institute  Texas Center for Learning Disabilities 

Kristina Metz successfully defends dissertation, sets sights on internship
June 12, 2013

MCPER congratulates Kristina Metz, a researcher with the Texas Center for Learning Disabilities and Middle School Matters Institute, for successfully defending her dissertation: "The Role of Family Functioning, Family Messages, and Child Cognitions in the Development and Maintenance of Depression." Metz next will begin a psychology internship at La Rabida Children’s Hospital in Chicago, which specializes in treating children with chronic illnesses, with developmental disabilities, or who have been abused.

Metz, a doctoral student in the Department of Educational Psychology with a concentration in school psychology, earned her bachelor of arts degree in child development at Vanderbilt University. She went on to conduct research on early intervention programs at the University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers University. Her research interests include school-based early intervention programs, family-school connections, and international education development.

Tags: Reading Institute  Texas Center for Learning Disabilities 

Jennifer Wick Schnakenberg named principal investigator of Texas Literacy Initiative
June 4, 2013

MCPER and the Vaughn Gross Center congratulate Jennifer Wick Schnakenberg on her new role with the Texas Literacy Initiative (TLI) as the project's principal investigator. In her 10 years at the centers, Schnakenberg has specialized in professional development and technical assistance at the national, state, district, and campus levels to build capacity and implementation of evidence-based and sustainable literacy practices. The goal of TLI is to improve school readiness and success in language and literacy of disadvantaged students in targeted local education agencies and their associated early childhood education providers through coordinated implementation of the Texas State Literacy Plan. For more information, visit the Vaughn Gross Center TLI project page or the Texas Education Agency TLI webpage.

Tags: Reading Institute 

News from April 2013

MCPER’s Jacob Williams completes doctoral degree
April 19, 2013

Congratulations to Jacob Williams for becoming MCPER's newest doctor. Dr. Williams, a member of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department and Texas Literacy Initiative projects, successfully defended his dissertation, Administrator Perception of Threat From Students With Disabilities and Disciplinary Decisions. Williams earned the degree through the Special Education Administration Program in the Department of Educational Administration.

Tags: Reading Institute Dropout Prevention Institute  Texas Juvenile Justice Department Project 

Elizabeth Swanson featured in Voice of Literacy podcast
April 18, 2013

Elizabeth Swanson discussed her work with MCPER's Promoting Adolescents' Comprehension of Text project in a recent installment of the Voice of Literacy podcast series. The podcast, "Middle School Social Studies: Using the Text to Improve Reading Comprehension," also touches on a recent article by Swanson and MCPER colleagues in Reading Research Quarterly.

In the Voice of Literacy series, Elizabeth Baker of the University of Missouri interviews literacy researchers about the implications of their research. The series is posted biweekly from September to April. All previous talks are posted in the online archive.

Tags: Reading Institute  Promoting Adolescents’ Comprehension of Text 

Three MCPER staff members to receive UT Staff Service Awards
April 1, 2013

Christy Murray, a director of MCPER's Middle School Matters Institute; Greg Roberts, executive director of the Vaughn Gross Center and associate director of MCPER; and Debbie Van Loan of MCPER's Administrative Team will each receive a UT Staff Service Award in recognition of their many years of excellent work at The University of Texas at Austin. Murray will be recognized for 10 years of service, and Roberts and Van Loan will be recognized for 15 years of service. The Staff Service Awards Program "celebrates and recognizes the contributions of committed staff who are responsible for transforming lives for the benefit of society," according to the UT website. Both the centers and the university thank Murray, Roberts, and Van Loan for their valuable contributions to our success.

Tags: Dropout Prevention Institute Middle School Matters Institute Reading Institute Mathematics and Science Institute for Students With Special Needs