Vanderbilt Peabody education experts available for back-to-school stories

Peabody Lawn
(Vanderbilt University)

Education experts from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of education and human development are available for back-to-school interviews. Peabody was named the No. 1 graduate school of education in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for the fourth consecutive year in 2012.

To schedule an interview with these experts or any Peabody researcher, contact Jennifer Wetzel at (615) 322-4747.

Policy issues

School choice, school improvement, magnet and charter schools: Many advocates for school choice argue that the competition created by giving parents multiple options of schools for their children will improve education in traditional public schools. Vanderbilt’s Peabody College is the lead institution for the federally funded National Center on School Choice, which researches school choice in all its forms. Peabody faculty members Xiu Cravens, Ellen Goldring, Tom Smith and Claire Smrekar can provide information on the center’s key findings on choice schools and public school reform.

Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind): Schools across the nation are facing considerable challenges as budgets are reduced and the need to meet No Child Left Behind standards continues. But, a much-anticipated bill that would overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act could make this the last school year under the strict No Child Left Behind test score requirements.

  • Dale Ballou is an authority on the use of value-added models to evaluate teachers and schools. His research on school accountability examines two criticisms frequently made of No Child Left Behind: 1. that schools have practiced a form of educational triage, focusing on students near proficiency to the detriment of higher and lower achieving students, and 2. that NCLB has distorted the curriculum by leading schools to neglect science and social studies. Ballou finds the evidence in support of these claims is not nearly as strong as commonly believed, and that the lowest achievers have particularly benefited under NCLB.
  • Ron Zimmer researches school choice, accountability and the use of private organizations in education. Zimmer’s work includes evaluations of charter schools, turning over low-performing schools to private management organizations, the use of school choice and supplemental educational service options under NCLB, and the closure of low-performing schools.
  • Ellen Goldring is an expert on school improvement with particular emphasis on the role of principal leadership. She studies the development and implementation of performance evaluation for school principals and is a co-author of the Vanderbilt Assessment of Leadership in Education, a 360-degree, multi-source instrument that measures effectiveness of school principals.

Effective High Schools: Insight from the National Center on Scaling Up Effective Schools: The National Center on Scaling Up Effective Schools is an Institute of Education Sciences-sponsored consortium of five universities, two urban districts and an intervention support provider focused on identifying the programs, practices and processes that make some high schools in large urban districts particularly effective. Through their research, Ellen Goldring, Joseph Murphy, Tom Smith, Katherine Taylor Haynes and Marisa Cannata can discuss practices that lead to greater than expected learning gains for low-income students, minority students and English language learners.

Performance incentives for educators: Paying teachers bonuses based on their performance has been a controversial issue nationwide since the 1950s, but until now the concept has never been scientifically researched. Matt Springer directs the federally funded National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College and is a frequently quoted expert on the topic of paying teachers based on their performance.

Undocumented students and access to postsecondary education: Admissions and financial aid policies have considerable impact on immigrant students. Stella Flores can discuss how current immigrant migration patterns are affecting the education system.

Curriculum and teaching

Effectiveness of pre-kindergarten, designing effective pre-kindergarten curriculum: Dale Farran can discuss the components of an effective pre-kindergarten curriculum and the importance of preschool for at-risk students. Farran, along with Mark Lipsey, studied the effects of pre-kindergarten curriculum and found Tennessee pre-K students saw an 82 percent gain over children who did not attend.

Early language acquisition, literacy and language: David Dickinson is interested in the home and classroom factors that support children’s acquisition of language and literacy. His work addresses both basic questions about the role of language in literacy and practical questions about strategies for improving literacy learning for children. He published a study which found correlations between the preschool classroom experience and fourth-grade reading comprehension and word recognition.

Educational trajectories of English Language Learners: Public school students who successfully complete English as a Second Language or bilingual education programs within three years appear to fare better in meeting basic math and reading proficiency standards than their peers who remain enrolled in language acquisition courses for five years or more, research from Peabody’s Stella Flores and the Migration Policy Institute found. Flores can discuss the English language learner population and the challenges and opportunities these students face.

Advances in assessing game-based learning: There is growing interest among educational researchers on how to assess complex learning with digital gameplay. The research of Douglas Clark and Pratim Sengupta explores varying approaches to assessing student learning and the cognitive and social properties of game-based learning environments.

Other topics in education

Closing the achievement gap, gifted children: Racial inequity in education is prevalent as minority students are underrepresented in gifted classrooms. Donna Ford can discuss the complex factors surrounding the achievement gap between white and minority students as well as the special challenges faced by gifted minority students.

Parent influence, study habits: Kathleen Hoover-Dempsey can discuss the role and influence of parents in children and adolescents’ education and development, and can provide tips for parents to help their children develop strong study habits. She and her students study both why parents become involved and the impact this has on the children’s work habits, behavior and school engagement.

Gifted students: Tamra Stambaugh is the director of Vanderbilt’s Programs for Talented Youth and is an expert in gifted education. She can speak on low-income promising students, the impact of accelerated curriculum on student achievement, teacher effectiveness and talent development factors.

Helping kids handle stress: Judy Garber can discuss options for parents in helping their teens safely handle stress and treat depression, which may arise as the school year gets underway. Garber is the author of a national study showing the positive benefits of cognitive behavioral programs for teens at risk of depression.

Bullies: Maury Nation’s clinical research focuses on understanding and preventing violence and bullying among school-aged children. His specific interests are bully and victim typologies, and the short- and long-term consequences of peer harassment. His community research is focused on understanding community and neighborhood qualities/characteristics that promote positive health and mental health outcomes.