Home / Articles Posted by Kay Randall

February 11, 2015

Teachers are leaving their jobs in record numbers. To find out why, studies have focused on how structural factors, like the type of school in which a teacher works, contribute to job dissatisfaction. But University of Texas at Austin educational psychologist Christopher McCarthy recently conducted a survey of elementary school teachers’ psychological responses to the resources and demands of their jobs.

“This is something we can measure and isolate. Teacher appraisals offer early warning signs that they’re perceiving job demands as overwhelming. Schools can act to slow the revolving door in a profession where 30 to 40 percent of new employees leave after the first five years. We can’t let it continue that way.”

A 2012 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being poll found that teachers were second only to physicians in reporting they feel stress at work, and over half of them said they felt significant stress several days per week.

To understand the relationship between a teacher’s psychological state, job satisfaction and occupational commitment, McCarthy and his colleagues, University of North Carolina’s Richard Lambert and Paul Fitchett, developed a measure called the Classroom Appraisal of Resources and Demands (CARD). The tool is used to assess teachers’ perceptions of demands, like classroom management challenges, and sufficiency of resources, such as administrator support. By examining teachers’ perceptions of both demands and resources, the CARD can identify which teachers experience high demand levels relative to their classroom resources.

“We found that two teachers who have the same kinds of students, level of administrative support, classroom materials, pay and so forth can view their circumstances very differently,” said McCarthy. “What one defines as stressful and dissatisfactory can be quite manageable for another, so you can’t simply assume that factors such as class size cause teacher stress and dissatisfaction.”

McCarthy also determined that a teacher’s decision to leave the job is usually the result of an accumulation of several factors rather than a single trigger.

“This means there are probably numerous opportunities for schools to gather feedback from teachers, then offer relevant intervention if the instructors seem at risk for burnout,” said McCarthy, the Maxine Foreman Zarrow Endowed Faculty Fellow in Education in the College of Education’s Department of Educational Psychology.

“Everyone’s speculated about reasons for the teacher shortage,” said McCarthy. “My study suggests that it’s – at least in part – due to job stress.

– Kay Randall

When UT Austin’s College of Education and College of Natural Sciences created the teacher preparation program UTeach, they never dreamed that the President of the United States would be applauding it as one of the best ways to help students excel in math and science.

Since its launch in 1997, the award-winning UTeach program has graduated 878 of the brightest secondary science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teachers, enjoyed commendations for its successful public-private partnerships, and been adopted at 39 universities nationwide (with five more slated to begin replication before the end of the year).

“One major strength of UTeach is that we make sure our students have an exceptionally strong grasp of the content they’ll be teaching,” said Larry Abraham, UTeach co-director and professor in the College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Education. “Our students are required to actually earn a degree in the subject they’ll be teaching, whether it’s math, science, or engineering. They’re sitting in the same classes, mastering the same challenging material as students who will become biomedical engineers, physicians, or chief technology officers.”

When UTeach students graduate, Abraham said, they’re fully prepared to take on a variety of challenging careers, from medicine to NASA research, or to pursue graduate school.

Despite a wealth of choices, about 90 percent of UTeach students elect to enter teaching, and five years after entering the field, 80 percent of UTeach graduates are still teaching.

In addition to being seriously well prepared in STEM content areas, UTeach students complete a carefully designed sequence of classroom experiences that immerse them in “real life” teaching. Before they enter a classroom, clinical faculty with years of teaching experience help prepare the students for their in-school field experiences. While in the classroom, they’re able to work closely with seasoned mentor teachers who model best pedagogical practices.

“What makes UTeach different, and in a good way, is that we place students in secondary school classrooms from the very first course they take and give them a chance to teach lessons from the outset,” said Abraham. “Their first two semesters of the program are funded through scholarships, in fact, and are meant to let them see, at no cost to them, if the career is a good fit. If it’s not, they simply leave UTeach and continue to work on their degree.”

Although UTeach instructors don’t require students to adopt a particular teaching strategy, they give them ample opportunities to observe and practice an approach called project-/inquiry-based instruction.

With inquiry-based learning, students are given a problem to solve and, in order to do that they must discover and incorporate any number of key math and science concepts like speed, aerodynamics, fractions, or trajectory. They are freed to pursue answers through independent research, discussion, and hands-on activities.

Another motivator for students is that the problem is placed in a narrative context or scenario that’s likely to be relevant and naturally interesting to them, so the learning feels less like work and more like an adventure.

This method of instruction is demonstrated to UTeach students by some of the best area middle and high school STEM teachers, as well as UTeach professors.

“UTeach was one of the first programs of its kind in the nation to have a course specifically designed around project-based learning,” said Abraham, “and we were very early adopters when it came to integrating math, science, and technology, rather than using a silo approach that prepares STEM teachers for only one discipline.”

To foster that integration, UTeach math and science students take the same teacher preparation courses. Everyone learns physics; everyone learns biology; and everyone learns algebra.

“Just think about it, in middle and high school science classes, a lot of the problems that students run into have to do with math,” said Abraham. “Sometimes they’re just not up to speed. If the science teacher has studied how people learn math, though, he or she can spot when a child is having a problem and more effectively provide support.

“With math teachers, if they learn about teaching several different areas of science, their teaching becomes richer because they have an endless supply of real-world problems and scenarios to use in their lessons. This can help students understand bigger math concepts and grasp that learning is about more than one right answer.”

Having UTeach students work in multi-disciplinary teams has seeded an interest in them to interact across disciplines once they become teachers.

In addition to engaging excellent instructors, one of the most significant benefits of the UTeach program is that it’s streamlined and efficient. Despite adding UTeach coursework to their regular STEM degree requirements, students’ degree completion time is not extended. It’s also appealing because, in addition to welcoming undergraduates, UTeach admits qualified professionals with existing degrees who are returning to school. They can take the UTeach coursework and, if they pass, become certified as STEM teachers in around three semesters.

Since it began, UTeach has expanded its resources and services to include professional development for graduates, an elementary teacher preparation program called Hands-On Science, a national alumni network, scholarships and internships, and a community outreach program.

The program itself has been replicated by UT Austin’s College of Liberal Arts, and the College of Education recently formed UTeach Urban Teachers, which is the newest UTeach option. It’s specifically designed for educators passionate about social justice in diverse urban classrooms.

“Our students leave UTeach with a rock-solid degree and many options,” said Abraham. “Fortunately, most of them choose to teach, to do something that makes them feel good and has meaning. You hear a lot about ‘transformational programs’ – some are and some aren’t. UTeach has turned out to be one that truly is.”

-Photos by Mark Tway

Over the past couple of decades, UT Austin’s College of Education has become a national leader in preparing STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) teachers who can motivate and ignite learning in a wide array of students, including groups that traditionally have avoided or done poorly in STEM courses.

One of the most successful efforts has been STEM education expert Anthony Petrosino’s Beyond Blackboards project, which he developed in partnership with Rich Crawford in UT’s Cockrell School of Engineering and Chandra Muller in the College of Liberal Arts.

Students participate in robotics competitions.

Students participate in robotics competitions.

To boost middle school students’ understanding of all sorts of complex math and science concepts, the National Science Foundation-funded project focuses on something that appeals to a lot of kids: putting together robotic contraptions that look like really cool toys and then seeing if those contraptions work.

A considerable body of research shows that when students are given a chance to be active participants in their learning, do hands-on projects, solve problems on their own or in a group, and work on activities that are clearly tied to real life and seem relevant, they learn more.

Another perk to this teaching approach, which is called project-based or inquiry-based instruction, is that it has been particularly effective with student populations that traditionally have struggled academically, especially in math and science courses.

“Right now, the national dropout rate for Hispanics stands at around 40 percent,” said Petrosino, an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and co-founder of the nationally acclaimed UTeach program. “Many of these students may not perform well on tests, but they have skill sets that allow them to do well in engineering design. The confidence and expertise they gain while they engage in something like engineering design can be a really effective starting point for understanding core math and science subject material.”

According to Petrosino, inquiry-based projects tend to tap into students’ natural motivation and facilitate mastery of advanced scientific concepts like rules of evidence, investigation, and prediction.

“We’re using engineering-based design and robotics competitions and projects to create a context for math and science learning,” said Petrosino. “The high-level skills these projects are building can prepare students for jobs as engineers, certainly, but those same skills can also open the door to a career in medicine, software design, or architecture.”

Students participate in robotics competitions.

Students participate in robotics competitions.

To encourage more students to pursue STEM college majors and career fields, Beyond Blackboards takes a four-pronged approach that includes research-based materials and training for all major stakeholders: students, teachers, school administrators, and parents.

During after-school programs, such as robotics clubs, and at intensive summer camps, students spend lots of time on inquiry-based, open-ended, hands-on learning activities. At the same time, they’re introduced to a wide selection of STEM college options and careers.

Teachers participate in professional development that boosts their engineering knowledge and the level of comfort they have using technology in their classrooms. They’re also taught how to introduce students to engineering, which can include pointing out basic, everyday examples of engineering in real life. This helps students take the topic from the realm of abstract concepts into familiar contexts.

Beyond Blackboards builds support from school counselors and administrators by providing professional development and field trips to local businesses and organizations that offer many kinds of jobs in STEM fields. Teachers outside math and science – career instructors and art teachers, for example – have access to this training as well.

The program also reaches out to parents and caregivers, targeting historically under-represented groups, like African Americans and Hispanics, in order to build understanding about the career options open to students who have math and science skills.

At UT Austin, Beyond Blackboards engages engineering and UTeach students to serve as mentors for middle school students in the program, offering academic support and helping students look ahead to college and beyond.

“Support from multiple sources increases the likelihood of success,” said Petrosino. “University partners like DTEACH are very involved, as well as corporate partners like Skillpoint Alliance, a Central Texas education and workforce agency, and members of communities around the participating schools.

“Research shows that middle school is a critical decision-making time for students, and Beyond Blackboards focuses on engaging people who are in a position to positively influence those students. Really focusing on historically underserved populations, we’re tapping into a large group with a wealth of talent that may previously have gone unnoticed.”

Like robotics, science video games are an innovative, research-proven way to pique middle school students’ interest in science – one that learning technologies expert Min Liu has perfected in the guise of “Alien Rescue.”

It’s hard to deny the power of a good space adventure video game to motivate middle-schoolers,” said Liu, a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. “What 10- or 11-year old wouldn’t get into traveling through outer space and rescuing aliens?”

Created for sixth grade science students by Liu and her Learning Technologies Program graduate students, the video game “Alien Rescue” places tweens in the role of space scientist.

Children learn to use the scientific procedures that real scientists use, ask the tough questions scientists ask, and research answers to those questions.

As with any good inquiry-based lesson, Alien Rescue is story-driven and tasks students with finding suitable homes in the solar system for six alien species who have lost their home planets and are broadcasting a desperate plea for help to Earth. Each species has very different habitat requirements; if those requirements aren’t met, each student group’s alien will perish.

Watch teachers, students and developers talk about Alien Rescue benefits in the classroom.

The 3D online immersive learning environment combines the fantasy element of aliens with the realism of being a young investigator, which research has shown to be a great match for middle school students. Through a discovery approach, the students learn from their mistakes as they play the game, self-correct their errors, and are supported by various tools that are built into the program.

“Alien Rescue is an excellent example of inquiry-based learning,” Liu said, “and the game has been very successful as a teaching and learning tool for all groups, from gifted and talented to at-risk students. According to teachers, students are highly motivated to participate and quickly get into the role of space scientist.”

Since the game feels more like play than schoolwork, it may seed positive attitudes about science that remain through high school and college.

Alien Rescue has become so popular that it’s now part of the science curriculum in 30 states as well as Australia, China, Canada, and South Korea. In the past year alone, Liu has received requests from 23 more schools in 10 states and Canada, Cyprus, and New Zealand to implement the program. In the Austin area, it’s part of the school science curriculum in Round Rock, Leander, and Killeen.

Even though the addictive game is intended for sixth-graders (it’s aligned with the sixth grade Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills test), teachers in fifth through ninth grade classrooms have used it and proven that, with modifications, it’s an equally superb tool for a broader audience.

Students use the Alien Rescue video game in school.

Students use the Alien Rescue video game in school.

That broader audience includes the dozens of graduate students over the past 10 years who have refined and improved the game – adding new features, incorporating new technologies, fleshing out the characters, and updating the science content.

“When I agreed to develop this game, I never anticipated it would entice so many top-notch students, ones who jump at the chance to use it as a learning tool and research platform,” said Liu. “Alien Rescue meets their needs, whether they’re wanting to develop technical, design, or research talents. Our team has included grad students from backgrounds as diverse as learning technology, video production, teaching, astronomy, content development, and computer science.”

As part of the project, Liu’s graduate students have had opportunities to present papers about Alien Rescue at major learning technology and education research conferences. In addition to several other honors, the game has won the Interactive Learning Award from the National Association for Educational Communications and Technology, while those who’ve worked on the game have been honored with an Outstanding Research Paper Award from the World Conference on Educational Media and Technology.

“The thing that makes this project so special,” said Jina Kang, a doctoral student on Liu’s team, “is that every new group of graduate students brings new talents to the table and the game improves every single year. It’s never static. This is one major reason we’re getting so much positive attention.

“For example, right now we’re building a dashboard that teachers can use to follow, in real time, what students are doing in the game. And we’re working to integrate more math content into the program so math teachers can use it in their classes. We gained three new graduate students who have been middle school math teachers, so we’re able to develop multimedia-based math concepts and make Alien Rescue interdisciplinary. It’s all kind of amazing.”

Like robotics, high quality educational video games are igniting learning in students who never thought they could master complex math and science material.

“Over the past several decades science has shown us so much more about how the brain works, especially young, developing brains,” said Petrosino. “We know more about how children learn. Using this new information, we’re coming up with fresh ways of increasing students’ knowledge.”

-Video by Mengwen Cao from the Alien Rescue team

Kimberley Gonzales

Kimberley Gonzales

The College of Education gave me a meaningful way to bridge my undergraduate degree in computer science with my passion for education. I learned so much from others in my graduate cohort because of their diverse backgrounds. There were students who came from instructional design companies, some that were teachers who had led the implementation of education technology at their schools or actively used technology to teach their subjects, and people like me who came straight from a university and had a background in technology or education. I also found diversity in the professors’ interests, and from each class I gained a new definition of what learning technology could mean.

Why UT?
As a native Texan, I always wanted to someday bleed burnt orange. I was so sure my choice was right that I didn’t apply to any other graduate programs. Dr. Min Liu, who’s in the College of Education’s Learning Technologies Program, reached out to me immediately upon my applying and asked me to become part of a group that works with her on an award-winning science education game called Alien Rescue. When I came to visit before officially enrolling, I immediately knew I’d made the right choice.

UT’s location was also attractive because of the number of technology companies located in Austin. I never imagined just how connected UT and its professors are to the greater Austin community and beyond. Education professors have research projects in collaboration with local K-12 schools, other UT departments, and even other universities.  Many major technology and education conferences come to Austin once a year, and sometimes conference speakers make pit stops in the learning technologies classes.

Life After UT
I’m currently a digital content engineer at Texas Instruments (TI) in Dallas. At TI, I manage the development of educational content for various platforms and facilitate the updating of content based on software changes. I use the skills I learned in the Learning Technologies Program to help students and teachers enjoy success with our TI technology’s educational content.

Advice for Students
One of the benefits of a small program like learning technologies at the College of Education’s is that you eventually get to know all students in your cohort very well. Collaborate with your peers as much as you can and learn from their experiences.


Op-ed by Dr. Catherine Riegle-Crumb

Associate Professor, Curriculum and Instruction

Dr. Catherine Riegle-Crumb

Dr. Catherine Riegle-Crumb

In the U.S. and many other developed countries, young females are entering college at higher rates than males and are more likely to graduate and earn a degree. Even so, we certainly can’t say that gender inequality is no longer a problem.

Reality is that women remain less likely than men to enter many science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields in college, a factor that contributes to their relatively lower occupational earnings. The under-representation of women in STEM fields is particularly problematic given the rapid growth of STEM-related job sectors and the national need for more workers with STEM degrees and skills.

So why aren’t more women taking STEM classes and earning college degrees in STEM subjects?

An explanation still commonly heard is that females’ math and science skills and achievement are inferior to males’ and, consequently, they’re not as qualified. Recent research offers strong empirical evidence that refutes this conventional wisdom, though.

According to research, female students consistently earn higher grades in math and science K-12 classes and take advanced courses at the same rates as males. While there remains a small male advantage on some standardized math and science exams, this minor disparity doesn’t begin to explain the large gender gap in who chooses STEM fields in college and beyond.

It can be tempting to take a very narrow view of this issue. One might say that since no one is actively keeping young college women from entering STEM fields, then they have the same opportunity to pursue these fields as men. Or, to put it differently, if young women have the same (or better) chances of going to college as young men and they happen to choose non-STEM fields, then this is simply a matter of choice, right?

While it’s appealing in its simplicity, such a narrow perspective ignores the many ways society continues to limit women’s educational choices by telling them math and science aren’t feminine and that those subjects are really better suited to men and boys.

My own research addresses this topic and finds that young women continue to be subjected to biases and stereotypes about their math ability. Numerous other researchers in education, sociology, and psychology have gathered evidence that girls receive less encouragement from parents and peers to pursue STEM fields, and that they are continuously exposed to social messages (including those from the media) about their presumed inferiority to boys. These messages may be subtle but are nonetheless powerful – indeed, their less overt nature arguably makes them more effective.

Anyone can point to a single instance of bias, such as a teacher always calling on boys in math class before calling on girls, and argue that it’s unintentional and not significant enough to worry about. Yet these kinds of experiences begin early at school and in the home, and they continue to accumulate over many years.

Therefore, if we want to increase the number of women who enter and are successful in STEM fields, we have to think hard about how individuals’ choices are not nearly as free as we might want to believe. Rather, the choices that young women make are severely constrained by social and cultural forces that shape what they think is possible.

The good news is that there are things we can do to change how girls view their future possibilities, such as providing more opportunities for them to interact with positive female role models, and educating current and future math and science teachers about how to create more gender equitable classrooms. Also, we could all do our part to discourage the constant social dialogue about how “boys and girls are just so different.”

If we accomplish these changes, we can give girls and young women an opportunity to see their educational and occupational futures as not fundamentally dictated by their gender, but open to endless possibilities.




November 11, 2014

Dr. James Schaller, director of the Rehabilitation Counselor Education Program (RCEP) in the Department of Special Education, has received a $950,000 five-year federal grant. An award from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) within the U.S. Department of Education, the grant will fund training for master’s level rehabilitation counselors within the College of Education.

The RCEP master’s degree has been in existence since 1963, and received its first external funding in 1967. The RCEP is nationally accredited through the Council on Rehabilitation Education and offers coursework leading to a master’s of education (M.Ed) degree. Consisting of 48 hours of academic coursework and practical experience, the RCEP master’s concentration prepares students to assist people with disabilities in gaining vocational, economic, social, and functional independence.

RCEP students have access to paid internships thanks to an interagency contract with the Texas Division of Assistive and Rehabilitation Services. Coursework may be used in preparation for becoming a licensed professional counselor (LPC) or a certified rehabilitation counselor (CRC). The employment rate for graduates of the RCEP is over 95%.

November 3, 2014

Rebecca CallahanEven though over 7.5 million potential voters between 18 and 24 were born abroad or in the U.S. to immigrant parents, very little research has been done on what affects the political and civic engagement of that large demographic. Do language barriers guide whether or not they register to vote? Do family opinions play a big part?

In their new book “Coming of Political Age: American Schools and the Civic Development of Immigrant Youth,” co-authors Rebecca Callahan and Chandra Muller argue that completion of high school social studies significantly influences immigrant students’ future voting habits.

Callahan is an assistant professor in the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and Muller is a professor in the College of Liberal Arts’ Department of Sociology.

According to the co-authors, the number of social studies credits completed in high school matters more for first- and second-generation immigrant children than for children of native-born parents when it comes to predicting voter participation. They also found that, although education affects who votes and registers to vote, it does not influence political party identification or the political perspective of immigrant youth.

Coming of Political Age by Rebecca Callahan“Previous research has focused on how immigrant parents and communities shape their children’s social and academic development,” said Callahan. “In this work, we focus on school as a critical location for understanding the political socialization processes of immigrant adolescents.”

Callahan and Muller used nationally representative high school student data, linked to future voting, as well as interviews with high school social studies teachers and their former Latino immigrant students, to show how schools can create a democratic citizenry.

The book notes that some efforts to increase English language proficiency by placing students in English language learning programs can result in fewer opportunities to take social science courses and less instruction in American political processes.

“Our study of adolescents’ civic socialization illustrates just how much schools shape immigrant youth’s political futures through the courses they take,” said Callahan. “This is a critical piece of the puzzle for anyone who’s interested in the youth vote. The future of American democracy is inextricably linked to the health of this country’s public schools.”

November 3, 2014

Libby Doggett

Libby Doggett

On October 25, Dr. Libby Doggett visited the College of Education and spoke on the topic of “Early Education in the Spotlight,” explaining challenges and opportunities that policy makers and local governments encounter as they work to improve services for pre-K children. Doggett is Assistant Deputy Secretary for Early Childhood Education in the U.S. Department of Education and a three-time UT Austin alumna.

During the event, early childhood education faculty members Jennifer Adair and Christopher Brown also announced the winners of the first-ever Early Childhood Education Awards. Susana Guzman-Ortega, a pre-K bilingual teacher at AISD’s Pickle Elementary, was honored with the Mitchoff Family Teaching Excellence in Early Childhood Education Award and Manuel Martinez, a second grade teacher at AISD’s Houston Elementary, won the Zezula Family Teaching Excellence in Early Childhood Education Award.

What is your connection to UT Austin’s College of Education?
I received a Ph.D. in special education there, and I often draw on what I learned during those years: the values, focus on innovation, the incredibly smart thinking.

Did you spend any time teaching?
I did. In fact, I taught a first grade bilingual class at Ortega Elementary here in Austin. Teaching at Ortega gave me a passion I still retain for helping children.

Why is early childhood education (ECE) getting so much more attention these days?
It’s because of the amount of great research that’s being done in that area. For example, a fairly recent study showed that children from upper income families have heard 30 million more words than children from lower income backgrounds. To address this problem, the White House developed a program called Bridging the Word Gap, which works with low income families to increase the amount and quality of communication parents and other caretakers have with children from birth.

How do you sell the argument that putting more money into ECE is a good idea?
It’s all about that great scientific research. Studies show that in states where it’s a priority to offer quality care and education to the youngest children, more children grow up with better reading and math skills, graduate high school, get and keep jobs, and form stable families. There is a proven connection. And 75 percent of Americans who were surveyed want Congress to invest more in early childhood education this year or next year.

At the federal level, what’s the main focus when it comes to addressing ECE?
In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to expand access to high-quality preschool to every child in America, from birth to five years of age. As part of that effort, the President has proposed a series of new investments that will establish a continuum of high quality early learning for each child. The President wants to invest resources in an area where we know there will be a return on that investment: our preschool learners. The benefits include savings reflected in improved educational outcomes, increased job productivity, and lower crime rates.

What’s the biggest challenge the U.S. faces when it comes to improving early childhood education?
It’s definitely funding. There are so many competing interests. Finding funds for reform is always difficult and, as you know, children don’t have lobbyists. They can’t go to the White House and make their needs known. They have to rely on adults who can act on their behalf. There are some bright spots, though. Health and Human Services has offered $500 million in grants to the states, and they’ve received 600 applications. There will be an announcement of the winners in December. Also, the Department of Education has $250 million available for preschool development grants, and that money will fund services in 12-15 states.

How does the level of funding for K-12 compare to funding for ECE?
There’s a huge disparity, with much more put into K-12. Imagine what pre-K would look like if we put the same kind of money into it.

How are cities and states helping?
States and cities are stepping up, with more than 30 states increasing funding for preschools. North Carolina, Alabama and Oklahoma, for example, already are putting in extra money and operating some of the highest-quality preschool programs in the nation. As far as cities, San Antonio has done a wonderful job. They implemented a one-eighth of a cent sales tax and, with the extra money, were able to open four very beautiful new early childhood centers, which I recently visited.

How well is Texas serving its youngest learners?
Texas is offering services to 52 percent of our four-year-olds, which is actually very good compared to the rest of the nation. About a third of the states are serving only around 10 percent of their four-year-olds. In Texas, spending per child is low, however, and although there’s access to services, the quality of care often is quite poor.

What does high quality preschool care and education look like?
High quality standards include having a child-to-staff ratio of no more than 10:1 and a class size of no more than 20 students. A high quality program has early childhood teachers who are certified to teach, have training in ECE, and who are paid the same as K-12 certified teachers. Services include care for children with disabilities, and instruction is developmentally appropriate as well as culturally and linguistically relevant. Instruction is regularly evaluated, data are collected and assessed, and there’s continuous quality improvement. There is also a high level of family engagement, as well as intensive parenting skills education, home visits, and evidence-based health and safety standards.

-Photo by Christina S. Murrey

November 3, 2014

Sharon Vaughn, executive director of the Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk, has received part of a $7.5 million grant that will be used to prepare special education experts to develop intensive interventions for students with persistent, severe academic and behavioral difficulties.

The five-year grant is funded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), a division of the U.S. Department of Education. Funds will be distributed to seven partner institutions that are part of the National Center for Leadership in Intensive Intervention (NCLII), a new consortium that includes Vanderbilt University, University of Illinois at Chicago, and the University of Minnesota. The funding will support 28 doctoral students nationally.

“As a University of Texas graduate, I am very excited that the talented faculty of UT’s Department of Special Education will be engaged with NCLII,” said Christopher Lemons, assistant professor of special education at Vanderbilt University and co-director of the program. “We are delighted that Sharon Vaughn is serving as the lead representative from UT. Sharon is one of the most respected researchers in our field. Her work has dramatically impacted classroom practice and she is one of the top experts on how to develop and evaluate intensive interventions targeting our neediest students.”

The project is currently recruiting applicants to begin doctoral work in fall 2015. Scholars who are accepted will contribute to the Intensive Intervention Network, a website designed to advance research on and implementation of intensive interventions. The project will provide opportunities for scholars to participate in cross-institutional research activities. In addition, the consortium will allow doctoral students to intern with national centers supported by OSEP, including the Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform; the National Center on Intensive Intervention; and the IRIS Center at Vanderbilt University.

Family and friends of the late Cissy McDaniel Parker gathered at the College of Education on Nov. 7 for a reception to celebrate the unveiling of a portrait of Mrs. Parker and honor her legacy.

The reception was held and the portrait hangs in the Cissy McDaniel Parker Dean’s Conference Room, which was renovated with funds from Ms. Parker and her husband Bob.

“I could not be happier to be at this unveiling, which just reaffirms the importance of Cissy to The University of Texas at Austin,” said UT Austin President Bill Powers.

Ms. Parker, who graduated from the College of Education in 1944, was a generous and dedicated supporter of its work through four deans. She and her husband funded the Catherine M. Parker Centennial Professorship in Education as well as the Cissy McDaniel Parker Faculty Fellows and, with the Parkers’ financial support, the college has been able to reward outstanding faculty who have distinguished themselves through their research, teaching, scholarship, and mentoring.

“Cissy was a distinguished member of our advisory council, an incomparable ambassador for us, and she loved the college with all her heart,” said Manuel J. Justiz, dean of the College of Education. “This beautiful conference room from the Parkers has been a gift that has kept on giving – it and the portrait are just two ways in which Cissy’s memory is kept very much alive in the College of Education.”

Photos from the unveiling event:

Dean Manuel Justiz

“This portrait is a tribute to a wonderful, wonderful lady who is very much a part of our College of Education’s history and traditions.” – Dean Manuel J. Justiz


Bob Parker and family unveiling the portrait.

On Nov. 7, family and friends of Bob and Cissy Parker gathered at the College of Education to celebrate the unveiling of Mrs. Parker’s portrait. The portrait honors Mrs. Parker’s decades of support and generosity.


UT Austin President Bill Powers, his wife Kim Heilbrun, Dean Manuel J. Justiz, and Bob Parker

UT Austin President Bill Powers, his wife Kim Heilbrun, Dean Manuel J. Justiz, and Bob Parker


Members of the professional music fraternity Phi Mu Alpha serenading reception attendees.

Members of the professional music fraternity Phi Mu Alpha serenading reception attendees.


Portrait of Bob Parker.

“Cissy was an angel, straight from heaven. She was so proud of this university, of this college, and of Dean Justiz. I can’t say how delighted I am that the college decided to give her recognition in this way.” – Bob Parker

-Photos by Christina S. Murrey