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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

College of Education faculty have expertise in areas as wide-ranging as school administration, behavioral health, and exercise physiology – because of their landmark research and reputations as top scholars, state and national media frequently cover them. Check out the media mentions our professors recently received on topics such as helping children understand racism, navigating parent-teacher conferences, and the economic benefits of bilingualism.

Sheri Mycue
“Can’t Go To Your Child’s Parent-Teacher Conference? Try This Instead”

“Some parents, for a variety of reasons, do not take advantage of the parent-teacher conference. I once had a parent of a child in my class who told me, after several unsuccessful struggles to get him to come in, and finally one successful attempt, that he did not plan to sit down to hear all the bad things about his daughter. With a smile I assured him that my agenda did not include that. ”

New York Times
Erika Patall
“Help Children Form Good Study Habits”

“When kids struggle with homework, parents sometimes have an instinct to take control by using commands, incentives, threats, surveillance, or just doing the work themselves. These tactics may work in the short term, but won’t benefit kids in the long run. A better strategy is to explain why even the most boring homework could help students accomplish personal goals (aside from just getting a good grade).”

The Texas Tribune
Rebecca Callahan
“The Q&A: Rebecca Callahan”

“School districts are constantly cutting bilingual and first language services for kids that already speak another language. There is this idea that those kids need English. The outside world is all in English. The testing system is English. Music, art and P.E. are in English. The cafeteria is in English. They will learn English. We have the opportunity to develop their home language as well but we don’t do a very good job of that.”

Diverse Issues in Education
Evelyn Waiwaiole
“Colleges Find Success With New Approaches to Developmental Education”

“Waiwaiole says her center’s report on part-time faculty disputed that full-time faculty, who spend more time on campus than adjuncts, are more engaged with students. ‘We didn’t find that to be true,’ Waiwaiole says. ‘What we really found was that part-time faculty really want to be there, and, traditionally, they’re extremely passionate about why they’re there. They’re not there for the dollars. They’re very engaged in their work.’”

Huffington Post
Jennifer Adair
“White Parents Should Talk To Their Kids About Discrimination”

“Some people believe that children are too young to talk about race and racism. Yet parents raising children of color do it all the time. Schoolmates make comments about their skin or hair. Movies or the news portray people who look like them in a negative way, which prompts questions. But children who are white do not have to think about it. They don’t have to ask why their parents were looked at funny in a fancy store or why someone yelled at them to go back to where they came from.”