Theodore J. Christ, professor (Educational Psychology) and director of the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement; Michael Rodriguez, professor (Educational Psychology) and Campbell Leadership Chair in Education and Human Development; and Mistilina Sato, associate professor (Curriculum & Instruction) and Campbell Chair for Innovation in Teacher Development were recently featured in the MinnPost article, “Minnesota is really good at collecting student data, but not the best at using it.”
The article discusses a recent report released by the Minnesota State Office of the Legislative Auditor which found “significant time and resources” were used to administer the tests but more than half of the principals and teachers surveyed said they felt “unprepared to interpret key test score data.”
“I mean, they’re just drowning in [data],” Christ told MinnPost. “It’s all over the place. And if they don’t have the capacity to use it, they just turn away from it.”
“Schools that get useful information from those MCAs are the ones that do the deeper dives,” Rodriguez explained in the article. “They look at the variability. They look at the group differences. They look at: How are students with these kinds of experiences doing versus students who don’t have those experiences, and which kinds of experiences are we giving a kid that helps them perform better? And that requires someone who can go in and breakdown those numbers and do some analysis. Not many schools have staff that can do that.”
“Every school seems to have its own assessment culture,” Sato explained to MinnPost. “Once you enter into the school, you have to first learn about how that school is using [data].”
The article mentions a class Rodriguez and Sato are developing for all students in Curriculum & Instruction’s teacher prep program. The course will help teacher candidates interpret the data available to them to better educate their students.
MinnPost ends the piece with an important question from Christ.
“We need to make a decision: Are we going to be a state who simply has decided data is not important? And then let’s stop collecting it, because we’re spending tens of millions of dollars collecting it, but we don’t know how to use it,” Christ told MinnPost. “Or are we going to be a state who values data and research? And [then] we’re both going to collect that data and support the use of it.”
NAAEE is a membership organization that aims to accelerate environmental literacy and civic engagement through education. The Director’s Award recognizes an individual or organization that has made a significant contribution to the field of environmental education.
Williams Ridge was recognized for her work chairing the 2016 Nature-based Preschool Conference, the annual conference of NAAEE’s early childhood environmental education initiative, the Natural Start Alliance.
In addition, Williams-Ridge is on the advisory team for the Natural Start Alliance and the National Science Foundation-funded Science of Nature-Based Learning Collaborative Research Network. She also serves on the leadership team for the Council of Nature and Forest Preschools.
Maria D. Sera, Ph.D., professor and director of undergraduate studies in the Institute of Child Development, contributed to a recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report on promoting the educational success of children and youth who are learning English.
Sera served on a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine committee that examined how research on the development of English learners could inform policy and improve educational outcomes. Sera’s research focuses on the relation between language and cognitive development and on the learning of second languages by children and adults.
The committee’s report, which was released on Feb. 28, highlighted key research, identified effective practices for educators, and made recommendations for how policymakers can support children and youth who are learning English. It looked at two groups of children and youth: dual language learners, or children ages birth to 5 who are learning two languages and are not enrolled in school, and English learners, who are enrolled in the pre-K-12 education system and are learning English as a second language. Most English learners are born in the U.S. and are U.S. citizens.
The report found that English learners, who account for more than 9 percent of K-12 enrollment in the U.S., face barriers to academic success, as schools often do not provide adequate instruction or resources to support acquiring English proficiency. According to the report, early care and education providers, teachers, and administrators do not receive appropriate training to foster desired educational outcomes for children and youth learning English.
The report also discussed capacities and influences on language development, including that children have the capacity to learn two languages from birth if they are given adequate input in each. It noted that speaking to children in a different language at home will not hurt a child’s ability to learn English and that having strong skills in a home language can help children learn a second language.
Overall, the report made 10 recommendations to government agencies at all levels to improve educational outcomes. For example, the report recommended that agencies that oversee early care and education programs provide specific evidence-based program guidance for serving dual language learners and their families. The report also recommended that agencies conduct marketing campaigns to provide information about the capacity of children to learn more than one language.
The study was sponsored by the U.S. departments of Education and Health and Human Services, the Foundation for Child Development, the Heising-Simons Foundation, and the McKnight Foundation.
“Public schools are the de facto experience for immigrant children to be part of this country, both to learn about and participate in the nation,” says Nimo Abdi, a faculty member in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, noting that public schools are the first place where immigrant children contact mainstream culture and learn ways to integrate.
Abdi’s research focuses on the intersectionality, or interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, as they apply to the immigrant student. She is interested in how context shapes the identities of students. And what she has found is that the impact of schooling cannot but understated for students that are new to this country.
Preconceptions Hurt Immigrant Students
Abdi is studying the Somali community in Columbus, Ohio which is very similar to the one here in the Twin Cities. She sees Somali students face the obstacle of preconceived notions based on their background in the Columbus public schools. “Teachers and school administrators and students have certain concepts of what it means to be a Somali,” Abdi says.
As a science teacher in Columbus, Abdi noticed that students were treated differently based on their appearance. Russian immigrant students were mainstreamed into regular classes even if they needed the help of an ESL class. However, second-generation Somali students were still being placed in ESL classes even if they were proficient.
“Those things tend to mark and label students in a certain way—being visible, being black and Muslim, and also being Somali,” Abdi finds in her experience and research.
Caught Between Two Cultures
Somalis students deal with the dual pressure of having to fit into their schools and into their home communities by changing their identities in different contexts. “In urban settings, some Somali students appropriate hip-hop culture to be part of the black youth culture,” says Abdi, noting that they are not necessarily accepted completely not do they see themselves as such.
“One boy told me that sometimes he identified as Somali, sometimes as African-American. It all depends on the context. “
Trying to fit into the school and home community is especially difficult for girls. “Girls come to school completely covered, and in literally less than ten minutes they take everything off and look completely different,” Abdi says that “the tricky thing about the whole notion of dress code is it could have completely different meanings in different settings. Covering is appreciated in the Somali context as a show of modesty but it has the opposite effect in mainstream culture. It’s a very difficult for young children to navigate that.”
Creating Spaces for Immigrant Students
In order to help immigrant students thrive in the educational system, Abdi believes that schools need to create spaces for all children, by educating students about different religions and offering options for students who don’t conform to the majority religion. She believes that a culturally responsive pedagogy could go a long way towards helping to integrate immigrant children and their communities.
“Social categories have real-life consequences in people’s lives. Being labelled in a certain way, has real meaning for children and how they see themselves,” Abdi reveals the main finding of her research: “The context of our education shapes who we are and how we see the world.”
Find about more about teacher education programs designed to support immigrant students in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.
The MEFS is a testing app that early educators can use to measure executive function (EF) and early learning readiness in children. It is the only early learning readiness assessment measuring executive function that can be used with children as young as two years old. The MEFS was developed by Institute of Child Development Professors Stephanie Carlson, Ph.D., and Philip Zelazo, Ph.D., who started Reflection Sciences.
“Executive function skills are vital for children’s school readiness and later achievement, and we now have a way to quickly and validly measure EF against national and local norms,” Carlson says. “We are delighted to be collaborating with CEED, the state’s premier training organization for public and private early education providers, to help others learn to use the MEFS in their organizations.”
“Early educators who are looking for new, effective ways to promote children’s learning and social skills will appreciate the ease of using the MEFS,” says Amy Susman-Stillman, Ph.D., a research associate at CEED. “It provides information about children’s development that no other assessment tool does and makes it simpler to understand a child’s individual needs.”
The mission of ASTE is to “promote excellence in science teacher education world-wide through scholarship and innovation.” Members include teacher educators, scientists, science coordinators and supervisors, and informal science educators who prepare and provide professional development for teachers of science at all grade levels.
As both a professor of science education and the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, Roehrig’s professional focus is on advancing science teacher education and preparation.
She writes that her “research and teaching interests are centered on understanding how teachers translate national and state standards into their classrooms. Of particular interest is how teachers, from preservice through induction and into the inservice years, implement inquiry-based teaching and how different induction and professional development programs can influence teachers’ knowledge, beliefs, and classroom practices.”
Roehrig’s brings her considerable experience and expertise to help steer ASTE in advancing science education practice and policy through scholarship, collaboration, and innovation in science teacher education.
Panayiota Kendeou, associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s Psychological Foundations of Education program, recently traveled to Sydney, Australia, to present her work on the 12th biennial meeting of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition (SARMAC). Kendeou was part of a featured symposium–organized by two world-renowned experts on misinformation, Ullrich Ecker (The University of Western Australia) and Stephan Lewandowsky (University of Bristol)–on research advances that reduce the impact of misinformation and fake news. At the event, Kendeou presented her work on the conditions that promote successful change of pre-existing beliefs in the context of her Knowledge Revision Components framework (KReC; Kendeou & O’Brien, 2014).
Dedicated to encouraging and promoting quality scientific research in applied domains, the SARMAC’s purpose is to enhance collaboration and co-operation between basic and applied researchers in memory and cognition.
What teacher most impacted you? For recent Pomegranate Prize recipient Rachel Harari, it was Rose Vukovic. When Harari was an undergraduate English honors student at New York University, she approached Vukovic, an assistant professor at NYU at the time, hoping to learn about students with learning disabilities. Vukovic challenged Harari to stretch herself beyond simply learning about the topic and, instead, to find a way to contribute to it. As a result, the two worked together to publish a study on mathematics anxiety in young children. Vukovic says it’s this kind of collaboration that brought her to Minnesota to be the director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Educational Psychology.
Upon receiving their awards, Pomegranate Prize winners were encouraged to create a 20-second video thanking their most influential teacher. Harari, now the department chair and an English teacher at Magen David Yeshivah High School in Brooklyn, NY, thanked Vukovic in a video saying, “I wanted to thank Rose Vukovic, my professor at NYU, for showing me that it’s not enough to just have an idea. That you have to actually make it happen. Thanks for everything you’ve done for me, Rose.” Watch her video.
The Pomegranate Prize honors rising leaders who have been in the field of Jewish education for up to ten years. The award is given by the Covenant Foundation which honors outstanding Jewish educators and supports creative approaches to programming. The Foundation works to strengthen educational endeavors that perpetuate the identity, continuity and heritage of the Jewish people.
The article discusses the value of early access to visual language for d/Deaf children—specifically those with hearing parents. After noticing a gap between the literacy skills of sixth grade deaf children who had been exposed to ASL from birth and those who had not, Golos developed a video series calledPeter’s Pictureto promote language and literacy development in DHH children. Increasing evidence shows that learning ASL can benefit all children—deaf, hard of hearing, hearing, and deaf children who use spoken language. ASL helps increase children’s spoken language skills because it provides a foundation for language. Penny, whose first language is ASL, says videos, like the Peter’s Picture series, are an extremely effective way to teach ASL. “Whether the parents are skilled or not skilled (in ASL), it’s important to give children a way to learn ASL because ASL is their natural language, period,” he told theMinnesota Daily. In the article, Golos discussed plans for future research—creating additional videos in the series and supplemental materials for teachers and deaf children but also adding voice over options for those who are not fluent in ASL. Finally, she’d like to conduct additional studies to see how these types of educational media can be used both in the classroom and at home.
Executive function refers to a set of skills that helps individuals pay attention, control impulses and think flexibly. During the interview, Carlson explained how executive function is related to the achievement gap and offered suggestions for how parents, educators and policymakers can help children develop the skills they need to succeed in the classroom.
“Difficulties with executive function really set kids up to fail in school,” Carlson said, later adding, “I would like to encourage educators and parents to get involved in these issues. There’s no powerless figure: ‘There’s nothing I can do for my class or for my child that’s going to make any difference.’ You really can and it’s a collective form of empowerment.”
Opportunity gaps among children in our society are growing, and part of the problem is how we assess and educate them. Michael Rodriguez, Campbell Leadership Chair in Education and Human Development, co-director of the Educational Equity Resource Center, and professor in the Department of Educational Psychology’s quantitative methods in education program, is being featured in this year’s Driven to Discover campaign for his work to close these gaps by helping schools understand how to work with diverse students, families, and communities. View the campaign.
Established in 1987, the mission of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards is to advance the quality of teaching and learning by: (1) maintaining high and rigorous standards for what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do; (2) providing a national voluntary system certifying teachers who meet these standards; and (3) advocating related education reforms to integrate National Board Certification in American education and to capitalize on the expertise of National Board Certified Teachers.
Students who are new to the United States (and often English) have a wide range of educational experience when they enter the U.S. school system, ranging from ten-plus years of high-quality, formal schooling to very few experiences with formal education. However, according to research conducted last year in the Minneapolis public school system by professors Kendall King and Martha Bigelow of the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, the standard assessment given to students new to the country failed to differentiate between those who had formal schooling and those who did not; they both scored roughly the same. This creates a problem for students, who are often initially placed in classes not appropriate to their skill level, and can slow down their achievement in schools.
The research findings, which were recently accepted for publication in Educational Policy, spurred King and Bigelow to tackle the problem with a more effective assessment tool. They started a collaboration with students, faculty and staff at Wellstone International High School, the New Family Center, and the Multilingual Department of Minneapolis public schools to develop the Native Literacy Learning Assessment (NLLA). This test, which Minneapolis now administers to most newcomer adolescents, provides administrators and teachers with crucial information about students’ reading and writing skills in their first language. It is available in Spanish, Somali, Oromo, Arabic, and Amharic.
King and Bigelow hope that teachers and administrators will find this new, free tool useful in meeting the needs of their multilingual students and ensuring appropriate class placement to better educational outcomes for students new to the U.S. school system.
The University of Minnesota created the Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (DDF) program to allow the “the University’s most accomplished PhD candidates an opportunity to devote full-time effort to an outstanding research project by providing time to finalize and write a dissertation during the fellowship year.” This academic year, the Department of Curriculum & Instruction was honored to receive the award for four of its outstanding PhD candidates.
What constitutes an outanding research project? We find out more about the four DDF recipients and their dissertation projects, career interests, and how they are planning to create change and promote knowledge for learners of all ages:
Revitalizing language, reframing expertise: An ecological study of language in one teacher-learner’s Ojibwe classroom
When Melissa Engman was a graduate student in applied linguistics, she worked with associate professor Mary Hermes transcribing Ojibwe videos. The work led her to take a class in language revitalization—the process of reviving declining, often indigenous languages—and there she found resonance in the inherent social justice issues that arose with cultures who have seen their native language use dwindle. “I became aware that I’m a white person living here on land that was once Ojibwe and Dakota land. I began to think about assumptions and power that come with speaking a dominant language,” Engman says.
Engman’s work focuses on a classroom in the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation in Northwest Wisconsin where Ojibwe language is part of the curriculum. Due to the fact that Ojibwe language instruction materials are very few and many of the teachers have varying experiences with formal language training, Engman is trying to understand how to model the language revitalization program to be effective.
Engman attributes her research success partially to an atmosphere of collaborative support in her with her peers in Second Language Education. “Our cohort has very different research areas, but critical thinking is what unites our work,” Engman says. “We’re not afraid to challenge and push each other. That’s created a real sense of camaraderie and support. The faculty have done a really good job of fostering those relationships.”
Recuperating heritage languages, becoming transformative educators: Multilingual teachers and students of color transforming schools
After completing a Fulbright Scholarship teaching German to Turkish students in Austria, Cushing-Leubner realized that the non-native language learners in the schools were being left behind. She found a similar situation for Spanish-speaking students in the United States, which led her to focus her dissertation on developing a “heritage language” curriculum for students who speak Spanish at home. These students can use their home language as a springboard to learning more about their history, heritage and be included more effectively in a classroom setting.
“Multilingual kids are not represented in the current curriculum at all. They don’t see school as a space that’s designed for them,” Cushing-Leubner explains the problem with current foreign language classrooms. “Heritage language classes can reverse the trend of excluding home-language speakers.”
Cushing-Leubner is working with new teachers in high schools and middle schools across the Twin Cities metro. They have already successfully implemented heritage language classes in Spanish that use Latino-American history as a way for students to practice reading and writing the language they already speak proficiently. For these students, “keeping ties to their heritage languages is a point of strength and hope, and helps create community with one another,” says Cushing-Leubner.
Enabling Space Cadets: Quality Science Fiction for Children under 12 Years Old
Emily Midkiff got sidetracked while working on a class project to analyze a library’s circulation data. She noticed how little children’s science fiction existed compared to children’s fantasy literature, though the check-out rates were the same. This led Midkiff to create her dissertation to examine science fiction for children under 12, an area that is largely neglected but important to the development of interest in the STEM education fields.
“There are all these interview on how engineers, scientists and people at NASA read sci-fi when they were little. It shaped how they view science; Not a lot of people make that connection,” Midkiff says. She plans to look for strong girl characters and diverse heroines in children’s science fiction to better understand the lack of women and minorities in the STEM fields as part of her research.
Migrant Adult Learners and Digital Literacy: Collaborative Study for Sustainable Change
Jen Vanek has been working in the field of adult literacy and second-language learning for 20 years, the last 10 of which she has focused on digital literacy. Her dissertation is aimed at helping adult ESL teachers integrate online learning into teaching. She is working closely with four community-based organizations to to design digital homerooms stocked with learning resources for adult English-language learners to use in their computer learning labs.
“I hope that what emerges at the end are not only instructional resources that solve local problems, but also observations on how learning happens that can be applied to other learning environments,” says Vanek.
Diane Tedick, professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, received a $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support English learners (ELs) through programs focusing on dual language and immersion teacher education and professional development, as well as parent education. The five-year grant project will be called the “Dual Language and Immersion Pathways to English Learner Success Through Professional Development and Parent Engagement Project (DLI3P).” Tedick received significant contributions from Tara W. Fortune, the immersion project director in the Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) in both conceptualizing the project and writing the grant proposal.
The need to improve English learner education is imperative as English learners are the fastest growing and lowest achieving group of learners in U.S. schools, according to recent data. Research has consistently shown that dual language and immersion (DLI) programs are the most effective in preparing ELs to achieve academically in English. ELs in well-implemented DLI programs do as well as or better on standardized tests in English than peers schooled only through English.
The project aims to address the issue by improving instruction for English learners through the development and implementation of three programs:
a two-year, elementary education licensure program specifically teachers in DLI contexts. The new program is slated to start its first cohort in January 2017.
a two-year, in-service professional development certificate program for licensed DLI teachers aimed at better serving English learners, which will be offered in the coming year.
multiple DLI, parent-family education and engagement curriculum modules that can be accessed to supplement existing, district-sponsored parent education programs or to inform the creation of programs in participating districts throughout the country. Scholars in the field have found that educators who work to involve parents and families in their children’s education can improve their effectiveness with English learners. This piece of the program, led by Tara Fortune, will be important to ensure student success.
The project will involve a consortium of partners at the University including CARLA and the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI). The project is also partnering with six area school districts and a private school in the Twin Cities Metro that have existing two-way bilingual immersion programs. Throughout the project, evaluators will gather high-quality data to assess project efforts with the aim of feeding back into the project for review and improvement on the question of how to prepare and support a diverse cadre of bilingual teachers better prepared to serve English learners and DLI programs effectively.
The grant projects are designed to provide teachers with high quality, DLI-specific preparation and professional development to ensure that programs are well-implemented and to expand the skills, strategies and knowledge of DLI parents and families to improve engagement. The end goal is to make progress toward closing the achievement gap between native English speaking students and English learners and promote equity in the education system.
Dr. Tedick teaches in the Second Language Education program area in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction. Learn more about the second language education programs offered for graduate and undergraduate students.
According to the NFMLTA website, The Paul Pimsleur Award for Research in Foreign is “among the most prestigious awards in language studies, it is awarded to the author(s) of an outstanding research study in foreign or second language education published during the previous calendar year.”
The award recognizes Dr. Tedick and Dr. Fortune’s co-authored paper, “Oral proficiency development of English Proficient K–8 Spanish immersion students” (Modern Language Journal, 2015) as an outstanding contribution to the field of foreign language research.
Dr. Tedick also received the Paul Pimsleur award in 2013 for a co-authored paper along with Laurent Cammarata of the University of Alberta.
Bic Ngo, associate professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction, and Josephine Lee of the College of Liberal Arts received a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education to increase services for Asian American students at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities (UMTC) campus. The $1.75 million grant is specifically aimed at providing “assistance to Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institutions to enable such institutions to improve and expand their capacity to serve Asian Americans and Native American Pacific Islanders and low-income individuals,” according to the award letter.
“The project seeks to provide our Asian American students with culturally relevant learning environments and programs in ways that nurture cultural integrity and academic success,” said Ngo.
The implementation of the grant at UMTC will be called the “Asian American College Excellence (AACE) Project.”
Ngo and Lee plan to roll out the AACE Project via several avenues, including a resource center (with computer lab and tutoring space), a teaching and learning library, an increased number of Asian American Studies classes, a speaker series, a youth summit, a teaching pathways program, and a tutoring and mentoring program among others.
One of the major tasks for the first year of the grant is to establish the resource center that will provide a place for many of the project activities as well as a dedicated space for the students to study, hang out, and build community.
Dr. Ngo is committed to analyzing issues relating to educational equity and cultural identity in immigrant students’ education. She teaches in the Ph.D. program for Culture & Teaching.
“I have always been impressed with the quality of art student-teachers that I receive from the U,” says Visual Specialist Hubert. “I tell everyone I know, that I will only take them if they are from the U of M.” Hubert has been working with the Department of Curriculum & Instruction’s Teacher Education program for several years and has had 15 students in the M.Ed. program teach in her classroom.
The co-teaching model is a unique aspect of the graduate teaching program that offers hands-on teaching and classroom experience designed to prepare graduates to hit the ground running once they receive their teaching license. Teacher candidates are paired with experienced, practicing teachers in the Twin Cities metro where they can put their coursework into action.
Well prepared by her classroom experience at Waite Elementary, Greamba has since joined Sky Oaks Elementary in Burnsville as an art teacher.
Reporter Susan Du of City Pages recently reported that after just one year as the science teacher in struggling Hamline Elementary school, Bonnie Laabs raised the science proficiency rate from 17 percent to 61 percent, meeting the statewide average. According to Jodie Wilson, Hamline’s testing coordinator, this tremendous jump is “extremely unheard of” in St. Paul Schools.
Laabs uses a combination of extra-academic advice and mentoring, along with creative explanations of difficult science terminology with the help of classroom pets to help students overcome hurdles in scientific understanding.
She is also open about her own past in which she struggled with abuse at an early age, spent time in foster care, and got thrown out of school. She uses her redemption through education as an example to her students, allowing them to open up about their own fears and problems. Laabs also tells her story to underscore the importance of completing homework and getting a good education.
Bonnie Laabs graduated with a Ph.D. from the Department of Curriculum & Instruction with a focus on family, youth, and community. To read the entire article visit the CityPages website.
The award honors an exceptional college or university professor in the field of reading education and is given annually to a member of ILA who is currently teaching preparation in reading to prospective educators at the undergraduate or graduate level. “An ideal recipient is considered to be a knowledgeable professional, an innovative teacher, a leader in the field of reading, a role model, and a disseminator,” according to the association.
Helman’s work in literacy in reading includes several endeavors. Most recently, she launched PRESS, a website featuring videos and tutorials that supports educators in implementing a framework for schoolwide literacy improvement. Helman also completed a a six-year longitudinal study of immigrant, bilingual students’ language and literacy journeys and co-wrote Inclusive Literacy Teaching on her findings and the implications for education. She is currently working with bilingual and dual immersion schools to implement Spanish word study curriculum and serves as a member of the International Literacy Association’s Standards 2017 Committee revising national standards for reading teachers and literacy professionals.
Helman’s research and teaching at the University centers on topics such as literacy development in the elementary grades, effective instructional practices with multilingual learners, teacher development and leadership, and assessment and instruction to support aspiring readers K-6.
Learn more about the graduate programs and professional development opportunities offered in literacy education in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction.