Research News

New Vanderbilt Peabody research featured at American Educational Research Association conference April 12-18

K-12 and higher education experts from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of education and human development will present their latest research April 12-18 in San Diego, Calif., at the American Educational Research Association’s annual conference.

Peabody College was ranked the No. 2 education school in the nation by U.S. News & World Report in 2008. For more information, visit

To see abstracts from all Vanderbilt faculty presenting at AERA, go to and search the conference program for “Vanderbilt.”


Teacher turnover in charter schools
(Presentation: April 13)
Thomas M. Smith and David Stuit will report their findings that the odds of a charter school teacher leaving the profession or changing schools is over 200 percent greater than the odds of a traditional public school teacher doing so. In part, the higher turnover rates are due to the fact that charter school teachers are, on average, younger and less likely to hold regular teaching certificates. Smith and Stuit found no linkage between higher turnover and charter schools’ personnel policies that make it easier to get rid of under-performing teachers.
Smith is associate professor of public policy and organizations. Stuit is a doctoral candidate.

More than 50 percent of students with behavior problems have undiagnosed language problems (Presentation: April 14)
Stephen Camarata will discuss his findings that language and behavior disorders often co-exist and that the language disorder is usually moderate to severe, undiagnosed and untreated. The findings are based on Camarata’s assessment of 5th and 6th graders with emotional and behavior issues.
Camarata is professor of hearing and speech sciences and of special education, and is a Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development investigator.

Patterns of racial isolation in Nashville’s magnet schools (Presentation: April 14)
Ellen B. Goldring and Claire E. Smrekar will present their findings that magnet schools in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, which were declared unitary in 1999 after a long history of court-ordered desegregation, have reached their all-time highest levels of racial segregation under unitary status. They also found the socioeconomic status of magnet school students tends to be higher than those in traditional public schools. Their findings of increasing racial isolation for both white students and black students at Nashville magnet schools provide a template for considering the national implications of magnet school policies in the era of post-unitary status.
Goldring is professor of education policy and leadership. Smrekar is associate professor of public policy and education.

Recruiting mid-career professionals to teaching (Presentation: April 15)
Marissa Cannata will discuss her research about the efficacy of policies that have attempted to increase the number of males and minorities in teaching and to address the unequal distribution of qualified teachers across schools by recruiting mid-career entrants into teaching. She found both mid-career and first-career teachers applied to schools with similar student characteristics, suggesting that neither group prefers to work with a particular demographic. Cannata also found that while that first-career teachers were more likely than mid-career entrants to receive job offers, mid-career teachers who applied to positions at urban or low-income schools were more likely to receive job offers than first-career applicants who applied to similar positions. This resulted in a greater proportion of mid-career entrants teaching in urban or low-income schools.
Cannata is a research associate in the Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations.

Fast food consumption and test scores (Presentation: April 16)
Kerri Tobin will maintain a link exists between consumption fast food, and students’ academic performance in school. She has found a negative relationship between 5th graders’ reported fast-food consumption patterns and their reading and math test scores, and will discuss possible policy implications and directions for further research.
Tobin is a graduate student at Peabody College.

School leadership differences among charter, magnet, private and traditional public schools (Presentation: April 16)
Ellen Goldring will present her research that finds principals in choice schools, both private and public, distributed their leadership and had more authority than principals of traditional public schools. These principals also put more focus on securing resources and marketing than principals of traditional public schools. The emphases on instructional programs appear to be similar among the public school types, with private school principals reporting a slightly higher level of focus on instruction.
Goldring is professor education policy and leadership.

Connection between principals’ activities and student performance (Presentation: April 16)
Ellen Goldring and Jason Huff will discuss their findings that principals in lower performing schools devote more time to planning and setting goals and to instruction leadership, and that time spent in these areas is associated with greater increases in student performance.
Goldring is professor education policy and leadership. Huff is a doctoral candidate.

Higher Education

Parents key to African American students’ college success (Presentation date: April 13)
Donna L. Pavlick will present her findings about what influenced her study sample of African American students who successfully obtained bachelor’s degrees at predominantly white colleges and universities. The results indicated that these participants attributed their success to the encouragement and support of their parents. The influence of faculty and staff as parental surrogates was a secondary source of encouragement.
Pavlick is associate dean for academic programs and registrar at Vanderbilt Law School.

State spending on higher education: Testing the balance wheel over time
(Presentation: April 15)
William Doyle will present his findings, based on 44 years of data, that the relationship between higher education funding and all other categories has only recently taken the form of a “balance wheel” for state finance. This popular theory asserts that higher education receives larger cuts in bad times and bigger increases in good times than other budget categories.
Doyle is associate professor of public policy.

Undocumented students’ success – a case study from Texas
(Presentation: April 17)
Stella Flores will present her findings that in Texas, which in 2005 was the first state to pass an in-state resident tuition policy benefiting undocumented students, immigrant students who enrolled as tuition policy beneficiaries are equally likely to persist in college as their U.S. citizen Latino counterparts. Results suggest that the academic promise of these students at a selective public institution is as promising as similar students with U.S. citizenship status.
Flores is assistant professor of public policy and higher education.

Media contact: Melanie Moran
(615) 322-7970,