News from July 2019

New project examines reading intervention efficacy for students with disabilities
July 9, 2019

MCPER researchers have been awarded a 5-year, $3.3 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences to examine the efficacy of a reading intervention for students with disabilities.

The project, Promoting Comprehension and Content Acquisition for Students With Disabilities, targets middle school students with learning disabilities in a study of the previously developed PACT intervention. Approximately 16,000 students, including an estimated 1,280 students with disabilities, will participate in the study implemented by social studies teachers at 32 urban and suburban middle schools in Texas and Tennessee.

PACT was developed and tested for efficacy with middle school students in social studies classrooms as part of a previously funded Institute of Education Sciences project. Data from that study suggest the intervention is promising for learners with disabilities, but it has yet to be rigorously tested with this group of students.

"We are grateful and excited for this opportunity to build on our previous PACT research," said Leticia Martinez, co-principal investigator of the project and director of MCPER's Language for Learning Institute. "There is a need to identify evidence-based practices to assist teachers in improving outcomes for our students with disabilities, considering how many of these students receive instruction in the general education classroom, and we intend for our findings to contribute to this knowledge base."

MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn is the principal investigator of the project. In addition to Martinez, MCPER Associate Director Greg Roberts and Jeanne Wanzek of Vanderbilt University are co-principal investigators.

Sarah Powell wins Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers
July 5, 2019

Sarah Powell, principal investigator of multiple MCPER projects and fellow in the Mathematics and Science Institute for Students With Special Needs, has won the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

The award is the "highest honor bestowed by the United States Government to outstanding scientists and engineers who are beginning their independent research careers and who show exceptional promise for leadership in science and technology," according to a White House press release. President Trump announced the winners on July 2. Powell was nominated by the U.S. Department of Education. She will receive the award at a White House ceremony.

Established in 1996 by President Clinton, the award "embodies the high priority placed by the government on maintaining the leadership position of the United States in science by producing outstanding scientists and engineers and nurturing their continued development. The Awards identify a cadre of outstanding scientists and engineers who will broadly advance science and the missions important to the participating agencies," according to the National Science Foundation website.  

Please join us in congratulating Powell on this outstanding achievement.

News from March 2019

MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn to run Boston Marathon to raise money for dyslexia research
March 22, 2019

Sharon Vaughn, executive director of The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk, will raise money for the The Dyslexia Foundation while running in the 123rd Boston Marathon on April 15.

The partnership is part of the festivities surrounding the 30th anniversary of The Dyslexia Foundation. "Like her steadfast belief that each child with dyslexia counts, let’s make each of the 62,926 steps in her run to cross the finish line count toward advancing our knowledge of dyslexia and translating it to classroom instruction," the foundation wrote when announcing the initiative.

For more information and to donate, visit the Dyslexia Foundation website.

Project AIM is recruiting schools for 2019–2020 school year
March 22, 2019

Project AIM is seeking sixth-grade mathematics interventionists to partner in a 1-year algebra-readiness intervention study.

To qualify, schools must have at least one math interventionist who teaches at least two class periods of students struggling in math. This randomized control study also requires comparison classes.

Project AIM has developed four intervention modules to improve students' mathematics performance through conceptual understanding, problem-solving ability, and self-regulation skills. Participating schools will receive electronic copies of all instructional materials upon completion of the study, allowing them to use the research-validated practices in subsequent years. In addition, participating teachers will receive a $300 to $400 stipend and a half-day of professional development.

More information is available online or by contacting Principal Investigator Diane Pedrotty Bryant.

News from January 2019

New report examines best practices for identifying specific learning disabilities
January 30, 2019

The Texas Center for Learning Disabilities has published a new report that summarizes the research base for popular methods for the identification of specific learning disabilities and makes recommendations for practice. 

The Identification of Specific Learning Disabilities: A Summary of Research on Best Practices—authored by Principal Investigators Jack Fletcher and Jeremy Miciak, both of the University of Houston—begins with a summary of the legal requirements for specific learning disability identification and the necessary components and features of a comprehensive evaluation for special education. It then discusses the attributes of specific learning disabilities according to different conceptual frameworks and reviews research on the reliability and validity of different methods for identification. The report concludes with recommendations for best practice.

The Texas Center for Learning Disabilities is a partnership between the University of Houston, The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk, and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Center research leads to a more comprehensive classification of learning disabilities, a more integrated understanding of intervention for children with reading problems, and important cross-discipline insights into the nature of learning disabilities. Currently, this research takes the form of four projects to be conducted over the next five years.

For more information and to download the report, visit the Texas Center for Learning Disabilities website.

News from November 2018

MCPER updates mission statement, strategic goals
November 26, 2018

The Board of Directors of The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk has adopted a new mission statement and strategic goals.

Mission Statement

The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk (MCPER) is dedicated to generating, disseminating, and supporting the implementation of empirically validated, evidence-based practices to significantly affect student outcomes and support educators, researchers, policymakers, families, and other stakeholders who strive to improve academic, behavioral, and social outcomes for all learners.

Strategic Goals

Goal 1

Further establish MCPER's national and international influence on evidence-based practice for the educational community.

Action 1: Expand MCPER's presence on social media and other relevant forms of communication to disseminate evidence-based practices, knowledge, and products to key stakeholders. Further enhance MCPER’s role as the go-to national and international resource for evidence-based practice.

Action 2: Further engage the Office of Communications in the College of Education to support MCPER personnel to improve the overall quality of the website and further align with the college website. Facilitate the ease of access to materials and resources.

Action 3: Encourage all MCPER representatives to make available materials and resources as well as website information at all appropriate events.

Goal 2

Further establish MCPER's research, evaluation, and professional development portfolio while remaining aligned with the mission statement.

Action 1: Refine all support services for enhancing knowledge about and access to external funding for research, evaluation, and professional development related to MCPER's mission.

Action 2: Refine access to and development of resources to enhance success in obtaining external support.

Goal 3

Establish a systematic process for recruiting, communicating, and maintaining relationships with educational settings as sites for research.

Action 1: Develop a directory representing all stakeholders who have engaged in research or expressed interest in participating in research.

Action 2: Develop a systematic method of recruiting and retaining appropriate communication with all educational stakeholders who have participated in research.

Action 3: Establish a communication loop between participating stakeholders and MCPER personnel about evidence-based practices developed so that conducting research, establishing evidence-based practices, and informing stakeholders is a seamless and ongoing process.

Action 4: Establish a procedure for determining and documenting sustainability of evidence-based practices with stakeholder partners when research projects are completed.

Goal 4

Establish a responsible and appropriate mechanism for reciprocal communication between MCPER and an educational leadership team (ELT) at UT Austin.

Action 1: Report to the appropriate contact in the ELT who is knowledgeable about external funding and can interact effectively with the ELT and MCPER leadership.

Action 2: Work toward the ELT recognizing MCPER’s mission and influencing and supporting identification of appropriate resources and decisions related to MCPER’s functioning.

Sharon Vaughn leads workshop in Minnesota as organization’s 2018 Distinguished Scholar
November 1, 2018

MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn recently shared her expertise during a Distinguished Scholar Symposium for the Higher Education Literacy Partnership of Minnesota (HELP). 

The workshop, held September 28 at the Minnesota Department of Education offices, was based on her book RTI in the Common Core Classroom: A Framework for Instruction and Assessment, co-authored with MCPER researchers Phil Capin, Garrett Roberts, and Melodee Walker. 

The Distinguished Scholar Series features a “single-day workshop held each fall that brings world-class scholarship to Minnesota educators [and] personal interaction with the speaker, as well as peer-to-peer learning and networking,” according to the HELP Events webpage. Past Distinguished Scholars include nationally recognized researchers Barbara Foorman, Steven Graham, Nonie Lesaux, Catherine Snow, and Maryanne Wolf.

Based on their feedback, participants enjoyed the symposium. One special education teacher reported that it was “one of the better—if not best—one-day conferences I have been involved in!” A literacy coach appreciated the “combination of research and practical application.” For more feedback, visit the HELP Comments webpage.

Earlier this summer, RTI in the Common Core Classroom was the topic of two HELP Book Clubs. The Book Clubs are held each summer to "stimulate conversation about the application of research to teacher preparation, professional learning, assessment, and reading instruction."

News from October 2018

Singapore Ministry of Education to visit, collaborate with MCPER researchers
October 12, 2018

Representatives from the Singapore Ministry of Education will visit Austin this month to work alongside researchers from The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk and see the center’s research in action in local classrooms. 

The three-person delegation—Lai Shan Teo, Celine Chia, and Zhan Zhi Wong—will visit from October 29 to November 2. The agenda includes observing classrooms participating in MCPER’s Project BASICReading and Anxiety project, and Project ELITE; exploring MCPER’s many available resources on response to intervention; and exchanging research on progress monitoring. 

The ministry reached out to MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn for the visit because of the center’s prominence in the research community on these topics. MCPER Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Schnakenberg organized and will lead the visit, and Dawn Stanco handled the coordination. Other MCPER leads for the various events include Pam Bell, Phil Capin, Nathan Clemens, Shannon Giroir, Letti Grimaldo, and Elizabeth Stevens.

The ministry’s goals for the visit include developing knowledge in (1) Tier 3 literacy interventions for primary-age students with significant literacy difficulties, (2) coaching models that build schools’ capacity to support students with significant literacy difficulties, (3) school processes to sustain on-the-ground efforts, and (4) literacy development and intervention for preschool students with literacy and language difficulties.

MCPER partners with Humanities Texas on series of reading instruction workshops
October 11, 2018

The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk has partnered with Humanities Texas to offer a series of workshops on best practices in reading instruction for fourth- and fifth-grade educators.

The workshops will take place in Austin on October 17, December 5, and January 30, and in San Antonio on October 18, December 6, and January 31. The workshops will cover evidence-based strategies for word study and recognition, vocabulary, and reading comprehension, as well as strategies specifically developed for English language learners and struggling learners. Workshop speakers include MCPER’s Jennifer Schnakenberg and MCPER collaborators Diane Haager of California State University, Los Angeles, and educational consultant María Elena Argüelles.

For more information, visit the Humanities Texas website.

News from September 2018

Latest “10 Key” guide explores research-based strategies for teaching English language learners
September 12, 2018

Experts from The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk (MCPER) have condensed the knowledge from a broad range of research into 10 practical ideas—and accompanying examples and scenarios—that states, school districts, and schools can use to ensure that all teachers provide high-quality instruction that leads to English language learners (ELLs) achieving rigorous standards.

"10 Key Policies and Practices for Teaching English Language Learners" offers recommendations and examples stated in clear language that are grounded in findings from solid research studies. Topics include understanding the wide variability in the ELL population and individual students' abilities and backgrounds, analyzing lessons to support ELLs' understanding of language and content, building on background knowledge, strategically using ELLs' native language, providing structured opportunities for ELLs to engage in peer discussion about content, and more. Also included is an extensive list of the research evidence supporting the recommendations. 

The document is the ninth installment of MCPER's "10 Key" series, which features similar lists of practical, research-based recommendations for specific topics of interest to educators. Links to all nine documents are available on the MCPER home page. 

Download "10 Key Policies and Practices for Teaching English Language Learners" today from the MCPER Library.