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Morgan Named Recipient of Postdoctoral Fellowship Award

By Pamela Batson

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA. - Paul L. Morgan, assistant professor in Penn State’s College of Education, has been selected to receive a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship award.

morgan_paul.jpgThe fellowship program was established in 1986 with funding from the Spencer Foundation to support early career scholars conducting educational research. The fellowship provides funding to these scholars to provide one year’s release time from teaching and administrative duties in order to complete projects considered by the Academy as likely to make “significant scholarly contributions to the field of education.” The program also helps advance the scholarly training of its recipients through activities involving National Academy of Education members.

To qualify for the fellowship, applicants must have received their Ph.D. or Ed.D., between the dates of January 1, 2002 and December 31, 2007 and have a demonstrated record of research in the field of education, among other criteria. The Academy anticipated making up to 20 awards in 2008, from a pool of national and international applicants.

Dr. Morgan received the fellowship for his project titled, “Children’s psychopathology: Trajectories, risk factors, and effects of services.” This project analyzes data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K), a nationally representative sample of children entering U.S. schools in 1998. Dr. Morgan’s project has two goals. The first is to identify the trajectories and risk factors of children’s teacher-reported attentional, externalizing, and internalizing problem behaviors, while also investigating whether these factors increase a child’s likelihood of self-reporting feeling socially isolated, angry, or sad. The second goal is to estimate the effects of retention and special education on children’s teacher-rated behaviors and self-reported feelings.

“We really don’t know that much about the trajectories—and the risk factors for those trajectories—of children’s psychopathology, especially for behaviors like inattention, anxiety, and social withdrawal,” said Morgan. “Nor do we really know whether grade retention and special education, which are the two interventions most widely used by elementary schools, function to reduce, or possibly increase children’s risk for psychopathology. This project is an attempt to provide the field with this type of information. I’m grateful to the Academy for the opportunity to conduct the research.”

Dr. Morgan received his Ph.D. in Education and Human Development (Special Education) from the George Peabody College at Vanderbilt University in 2004. He joined Penn State in 2004 as an assistant professor in the Special Education program. His work attempts to identify (a) factors that contribute to children’s identification as having learning or behavioral disorders and (b) interventions that may help prevent or remediate such disabilities.