News from May 2014

With the Vaughn Gross Center’s support, Arlington ISD’s inaugural Parent University is a success
May 30, 2014

With more than 500 participants, close to 100 workshop sessions, and nearly 100 organizations represented, the inaugural Arlington Independent School District Parent University was a success.

  Earlier this year, the Vaughn Gross Center for Reading and Language Arts at The University of Texas at Austin helped Arlington Independent School District (ISD) kick off its first Parent University. The Parent University offered support and resources to parents of students of all grade levels through workshop presentations by educational experts and a community resource fair with participation from many local organizations.

  Since 2011, Arlington ISD and the Vaughn Gross Center have worked to develop a strong partnership through the Texas Literacy Initiative, a statewide program launched to improve school readiness and ensure that all students are prepared to meet the literacy demands of college by high school graduation. The Vaughn Gross Center collaborates with hundreds of Arlington ISD teachers, coaches, and administrators to advance literacy outcomes for children from age 0 through grade 12 through ongoing professional development and technical assistance. As demonstrated at the Arlington ISD Parent University, the Texas Literacy Initiative distinguishes itself from past state-funded literacy initiatives by building strong connections between families, schools, and communities to support early childhood literacy and ongoing academic achievement.

  “The Texas Literacy Initiative has played a key role in building a thriving community for literacy in Arlington,” said Yoko Matsumoto, the Arlington Public Library program and community engagement administrator. “With the support of the Vaughn Gross Center, the Texas Literacy Initiative has strengthened the network of organizations that are making a positive impact on literacy and supporting quality education in Arlington.”

  The Arlington ISD Parent University consisted of informative workshop sessions provided by local and state experts and a community resource fair that featured important organizations and institutions, including the Pathways to College Access and Career Readiness Program at The University of Texas at Arlington, the YMCA, and the Arlington Fire Department.

  The Vaughn Gross Center led two presentations at the event. In the session “The Importance of Reading Aloud to Children,” parents learned of the benefits of reading with their children and were taught an eight-step routine to support vocabulary development and reading comprehension. In the “Praising Children” session, participants learned how “process praise” could be used to strengthen motivation, student achievement, and the child-parent relationship.

  Building on the success of the inaugural event, Arlington ISD and the Vaughn Gross Center recently joined forces again for a second Parent University to support the families and children of Arlington ISD.

Eight schools selected to receive targeted support in second cohort of Middle School Matters program
May 30, 2014

The Middle School Matters Institute, an initiative of the George W. Bush Institute in partnership with The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk, is pleased to announce that eight schools have been selected to participate in the second year of the Middle School Matters program. Of a large nationwide pool, the following were selected: 

  • Advanced Studies Magnet–Haut Gap Middle School of Johns Island, South Carolina
  • Baytown Junior School of Baytown, Texas
  • Grant Middle School of Corpus Christi, Texas
  • Lee Middle School of San Angelo, Texas 
  • Lyndon B. Johnson Middle School of Pharr, Texas
  • Trinity Middle School of Trinity, Texas
  • Wilkinson Middle School of Mesquite, Texas
  • Woodward Elementary School of Manteca, California

National experts will provide the selected schools with ongoing training and support in research-based school improvement strategies. The schools also will attend the second annual Middle School Matters Institute Summer Conference from June 17 to 19 in Austin, Texas. At the conference, school leadership teams will attend sessions with top researchers and practitioners in the field of middle grades improvement. This guidance will help each school develop a Middle School Matters Implementation Plan tailored to its strengths and needs. Three of the eight schools will be selected to receive further, more intensive support for their Implementation Plan.

For more information, see the Bush Institute press release.

Farah El Zein featured in College of Education’s “Meet Our Graduates” feature
May 20, 2014

Farah El Zein, a researcher with MCPER's Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute, is one of five graduates featured in the UT College of Education's "Meet Our Graduates" feature. According to the college, the feature celebrates "five exemplary students—one from each college department—whose diligent work and dedication won them accolades from faculty and advisers alike." El Zein is the representative from the Department of Special Education, in which she earned her doctorate this year. To read the full story, visit El Zein's profile on the College of Education website.

Collaboration, communication help Texas Literacy Initiative boost student literacy across Austin ISD
May 13, 2014

In a recent survey, Austin Independent School District teachers, reading coaches, and administrators reported that the Texas Literacy Initiative has significantly improved student literacy.

  The Texas Literacy Initiative (TLI) is a professional development and technical assistance project that works to improve school readiness and ensure that all students are prepared to meet the literacy demands of college. For the past 2 years, Austin Independent School District (AISD) has participated in TLI for prekindergarten through grade 12, benefiting more than 20,000 students.

  In November 2013, AISD’s Department of Research and Evaluation conducted a survey of 297 teachers, 51 literacy coaches and reading specialists, and 48 administrators.

  Across the board, AISD educators reported being well supported in their efforts to improve students’ reading outcomes. In the survey, 93% of teachers and 94% of reading coaches said that their campus administrators supported their TLI work, and 83% of administrators reported that they received “the support I need” from district-level TLI staff.

  An impressive 98% of administrators reported that TLI improves student literacy at their school. A substantial majority (81%) of teachers noted that TLI reading coaches are important to the academic success of their students.

  TLI’s emphasis on data-informed decision-making is one of the factors driving improvement in student achievement. Data meetings helped 87% of teachers “drive my instruction to support the needs of my students.” One surveyed teacher explained that a benefit of meeting with reading coaches is “…being able to sit down and review the data showing student progress and being able to work together to collaborate on different activities that will help support our students’ learning.”

  Teamwork and collaboration play key roles in TLI’s success. With a high number of AISD schools and educators involved, the implementation plan depends on consistent communication across the school sites and strong professional learning communities.

  The Vaughn Gross Center for Reading and Language Arts at The University of Texas at Austin works closely with the leadership at AISD to develop effective grant implementation teams and prepare literacy coaches to support teachers in meeting their instructional goals. As Marissa Campbell, the reading coach at Guerrero Thompson Elementary School, said, “Often, I feel my job enters uncharted territory—yet the [TLI] training and support help me find my path.”

  To ensure that best practices for instruction, professional development, and community involvement are consistently employed, similar surveys and student data reporting will continue to track TLI’s progress in the district.

Middle School Matters school in spotlight for piloting Pennsylvania dropout-prevention data system
May 12, 2014

Roosevelt Middle School in Erie, Pennsylvania, one of eight schools selected in 2013 to receive targeted support through MCPER's Middle School Matters Institute, was featured in the local news for its role in piloting a data system aimed at identifying middle schoolers at risk for later high school dropout.

Roosevelt is one of four schools piloting the Opening Doors Early Warning System, part of Pennsylvania First Lady Susan Corbett's Opening Doors initiative. Corbett toured the school on May 8. For a full story and a video on Corbett's visit to the school, visit the Erie Times-News website.

Colleen Reutebuch selected to attend Summer Research Training Institute on Cluster-Randomized Trials
May 12, 2014

Colleen Reutebuch, a director of MCPER's Reading Institute and principal investigator in the Language for Learning Institute, has been selected to attend the 2014 Summer Research Training Institute on Cluster-Randomized Trials from July 7 to 17 in Evanston, Illinois. The eighth annual event, hosted by the Northwestern University Institute for Policy Research and supported by the National Center for Education Statistics, aims to "increase the national capacity of researchers to develop and conduct rigorous evaluations of the impact of education interventions. The course sessions will provide intensive training on planning, implementing, and analyzing data for cluster-randomized trials," according to the event website.

MCPER’s Brandy Maynard elected to co-chair Campbell Collaboration Social Welfare Coordinating Group
May 2, 2014

Brandy R. Maynard, a MCPER Dropout Prevention Institute fellow and an assistant professor in the Saint Louis University School of Social Work, has been elected to a 3-year term as co-chair of the Campbell Collaboration (C2) Social Welfare Coordinating Group.

C2 is a voluntary, nonprofit international research network that prepares, maintains, and disseminates systematic reviews of the effects of interventions in education, crime and justice, social welfare, and international development, so that policymakers, practitioners, and service recipients are better equipped to make informed decisions. The Social Welfare Coordinating Group, one of four C2 coordinating groups, is responsible for the production, scientific merit, and relevance of systematic reviews related to social welfare, health, and social justice.

As co-chair, Maynard will be responsible for leading the Social Welfare Coordinating Group's internal governance; setting policy, plans, and priorities; ensuring the quality of reviews; approving titles, protocols, and reviews after recommendations from the editor; and serving as a representative in the C2 Steering Group. Her term will begin in November 2014. 

Maynard has been involved with C2 since 2008; she has authored two C2 reviews and is a co-author on two reviews that are in progress. She currently serves on the editorial board of the Education Coordinating Group.