Media Advisory: Education experts available for back-to-school stories

A line of pencils
Peabody experts are ready to comment on a wide variety of topics for back-t-school stories (iStock)

Vanderbilt Peabody faculty can discuss Common Core, pre-K, autism, teacher evaluations, charter schools, at-risk students, college readiness and more

As schools nationwide prepare for the new academic year, education experts from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of education and human development are available for comment on a variety of education topics.

Peabody is currently ranked the No. 2 graduate school of education in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, and held the No. 1 spot for the previous five years.

Contact or call (615) 322-NEWS to arrange an interview with these and other Peabody experts.


Craig Anne Heflinger is an expert on health care reform, child and adolescent mental health, substance abuse and health services. Her expertise and research interests lie in family and system-level issues affecting the implementation of policies for children’s services.

Maury Nation’s clinical research focuses on understanding and preventing violence and bullying among school-age children. His specific interests are bully and victim typologies, and the short- and long-term consequences of peer harassment. He is director of Safe and Supportive Schools Tennessee.

Emily Tanner-Smith and Mark W. Lipsey have conducted significant research on the topics of school surveillance, juvenile delinquency, recidivism rates and substance abuse.


Stella Flores has done significant research on college access and completion rates for low-income, immigrant and underrepresented populations. Her most recent study is on completion rates at minority-serving institutions, including Hispanic-serving institutions.

Donna Ford can discuss racial inequity in education and the complex factors surrounding the achievement gap between white and minority students.

Deborah Rowe has extensive expertise in how young English learners draw on their first language when learning to write and speak English, and how they interact with teachers in an English-dominant environment.


Gifted and Exceptional Children

Camilla Benbow and David Lubinski are among the nation’s foremost experts on gifted children. They co-direct Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth, a 50-year study of 5,000 gifted students. In their latest paper, “Who Rises to the Top? Early Indicators,” they explore spatial ability as an early indicator of success.

Donna Ford can discuss racial inequity in education, the underrepresentation of minorities in gifted classrooms, complex factors surrounding the achievement gap between white and minority students, and the unique challenges faced by gifted minority students.

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

Learning and Developmental Disabilities

Laurie Cutting is an expert on reading disorders, including dyslexia, and has identified a lesser-known disorder, Specific Reading Comprehension Deficits or S-RCD, in which a child reads successfully but does not sufficiently comprehend the meaning of the words.

Lynn S. Fuchs and Douglas Fuchs specialize in response-to-intervention, learning disabilities, instruction for students at risk of school failure because of disability or poverty, peer-to-peer learning strategies, testing, test bias and special education policy. They co-direct the federally-funded Accelerated Academic Achievement Center.

Ann Kaiser researches the effects of using touch screens to help minimally verbally children with autism generate speech. Her focus is early intervention; language intervention and acquisition; environmental designs for dependent populations and policy.

Paul Yoder researches communication and language development and intervention in children with language delays. He is among a team of researchers who received a five-year, $2.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders to study communication interventions for younger siblings of children with autism.


Joseph Murphy led a pioneering longitudinal study that examined homeschooling from its inception in the 1970s to today in order to better understand this growing social movement and what it means for education.


Access and Affordability for Minorities

Stella Flores can discuss the impact of state and federal policies on college access and completion for low-income, immigrant and underrepresented populations. Her latest study focuses on completion rates at minority-serving institutions, particularly historically black and Hispanic schools in Texas.

Common Core

Marisa Cannata works in the National Center on Scaling Up Effective Schools at Peabody. She can discuss the new testing consortia (PARCC and SBAC) and how the change will affect students and teachers. She has a broad knowledge of data analysis and what it takes to make schools more effective.

Doug Fuchs is a special education expert, and can discuss the importance of ensuring that at-risk children keep pace with the changes associated with Common Core. He is a recognized advocate for children who are at risk in the classroom, due to poverty, developmental delays or learning disabilities.

Bethany Rittle-Johnson focuses on how knowledge change occurs, particularly in mathematics. With Emily Fyfe, she recently completed a study that shows how a new instructional method aligned with Common Core may make math easier for children to learn. She can discuss why math remains a difficult topic and how instructional methods are evolving, for better or worse.

Barbara Stengel is director of secondary education at Peabody and can talk about how teachers will need to adapt their approach to pedagogy under Common Core. She can answer questions on curriculum choices in the classroom, and can weigh in on the how politicizing Common Core is counterproductive to schools and learning.

Financial Aid

William R. Doyle investigates higher education public policy at both state and federal levels using insights from political science and economics to explore trends in financial aid, the politics of higher education and student access.

Brent Evans conducts quantitative research on higher education policy. He has used the tools of behavioral economics to suggest an alternative income-based model to provide support to students in paying for college.

Race to the Top

Gary T. Henry is a nationally recognized expert on education policy, educational evaluation and teacher quality. He has conducted evaluations of the North Carolina Race to the Top initiative, a Teacher Quality Research Initiative for the University of North Carolina, the Georgia HOPE Scholarship and more.

Matthew Springer’s research focuses on education policy, particularly the impact of policy on resource allocation decisions and student outcomes.

Remedial Education Reform

Angela Boatman is among key personnel for a new national research center focused on reforming remedial education, the Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (CAPR). Her research assesses the effects of new approaches to remedial assessment, placement and instruction, with a goal to affect policy change and improve post-secondary college readiness.


David Dickinson is an expert on the interaction between language and early literacy development. He is developing an intervention designed to help preschool teachers teach vocabulary reading through teacher-supported play.

Mimi Engel can discuss her recent findings that reveal kindergarten may be too easy. She asserts that kindergarten should be more challenging, or students risk “pre-K fadeout” in which kindergarteners lose much of what they know if not properly challenged.

Dale Farran is a senior associate director of the Peabody Research Institute. She studies interventions and pre-school curricula for high-risk children, including those who come from low-income families. With Mark Lipsey, she is conducting a longitudinal evaluation of Tennessee’s statewide voluntary pre-K program. 


Ellen Goldring is an expert on school improvement, with particular emphases on school organization, school choice and education leadership including principal evaluation. Her research includes studies of magnet schools and access and equity of parent choice plans.

Claire Smrekar provides expert analysis on the social and policy context of school choice: how parents choose and why and how charter schools, magnet schools and voucher programs shape parents’ choice patterns.

Ron Zimmer’s research is focused on evaluations of charter schools, turnover and closure of low-performing schools, the use of school choice and supplemental educational service options under No Child Left Behind.


Mimi Engel, Joseph Murphy and Marisa Cannata can discuss summer learning loss—why it happens and how to prevent it.


Dale Ballou is director of the Tennessee Consortium on Research, Evaluation, and Development. He is an authority on the use of value-added models to evaluate teachers and schools. He studies the role of regulations in the training, recruitment and retention of effective teachers.

Xiu Cravens, Ellen Goldring and Patrick Schuermann can talk about their successful study in which Tennessee teachers improved their teaching by incorporating a mentorship/feedback approach which the researchers learned by collaborating with teachers in Shanghai, China.

Jason Grissom and Ellen Goldring examine key predictors and possible causes and consequences of school personnel retention and turnover. Their most recent studies measure if principals should be evaluated based on student test scores, and if teacher effectiveness data are being used effectively.

Matthew Springer is a frequently-quoted expert on educator incentive pay programs and educational accountability. His recent study reveals that teacher retention bonuses in low-performing Tennessee schools have been cost effective.

To arrange an interview with these and other Peabody experts, contact or call (615) 322-NEWS