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College of Education > News and Publications > 2015 January–March news

2015 January–March news

Faculty Member Coauthors Guide For Universities Managing Student Protests

Neal Hutchens, associate professor of education, helped write a resource for higher-education institutions to navigate difficult campus protests.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Colleges and universities now have an easy-to-understand resource to help them balance First Amendment rights with maintaining safety during on-campus protests.

Neal Hutchens
Neal Hutchens
Published by the National Association of Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) in partnership with the Education Law Association, the latest issue of Legal Links features articles outlining the key legal rules applicable to student protests, suggests policy for student codes of conduct, and highlights the differences in public and private institution rights, among other topics. It is available to NASPA members at online.

Neal Hutchens, associate professor of higher education, is a co-author of the publication.

“I contributed to this report because a significant amount of my research focuses on speech and expression in higher education,” Hutchens said.

Hutchens said that universities must balance between creating a safe environment for students who are both involved and not involved in protests.

“A fundamental purpose of higher education is to create and foster spaces for the free exchange of ideas,” he said. “As institutions respond to obligations to protect the safety of individuals on campus and to ensure that regular campus activities are not impeded, officials need to be mindful of preserving channels for open speech and expression, including student protest activities.

Universities need to be especially mindful of the actions they take to limit speech, Hutchens said.

“If institutions want students to be engaged citizens, then their policies and practices must align with that vision,” he said. “Squashing instances of student expression, including student protest, merely for purposes of control and concern over image and brand are not in alignment with that.”

Hutchens became involved with NASPA while working on the first issue of Legal Links, which was focused on the legal obligations of universities when sexual harassment accusations occur. He said that he hopes his work will help colleges and universities to design policies that follow both legal standards and their institutional values.

By Jack Small (January 2015)

Financial Aid Programs, Access to Higher Education

Two College of Education faculty members research how higher education access has changed over the years due to rising costs.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In the early part of the 20th century, most Americans thought higher education was reserved for the wealthy elite. That all changed when the GI Bill of Rights was passed in 1944 and almost eight million veterans took advantage to attend college. 

The law created access for a whole group of people who never thought they could afford to attend college. The same thing happened 20 years later with the passage of the Higher Education Act of 1965 and its reauthorization in 1972. 

Since 1980, however, tuition rates have steadily climbed while financial aid programs have not kept pace. Need-based financial aid programs, which concentrate their dollars on students from low-income families, have often fared especially poorly.

John Cheslock
The result has been a shrinking of the opportunity gap for low-income students to attend college. Studies have shown that the No. 1 concern for low-income students is the price, specifically how to pay for rising costs, of higher education.

Two professors in Penn State’s Center for the Study of Higher Education have conducted research on the subject. John Cheslock, associate professor of education and director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education, and Liang Zhang, associate professor of education and senior research associate, have each written on the subject.

In his working paper “Filling the Gap: The Use of Intentional and Incidental Financial Aid to Meet Need in Higher Education”, Cheslock, and co-authors Rodney Hughes, Rachel Frick-Cardelle and Donald Heller, examine the grant awards provided to students by colleges and universities and develop a new typology for describing these awards. 

Their research highlights how incidental need-meeting aid (which is not designed to offset a student’s need but regularly does so in practice) helps meet a substantial share of the need that students face, but is much less effective than intentional need-meeting aid (which is designed with need in mind) at targeting funds on those students who have the highest levels of need.

“The financial aid provided by colleges and universities is extraordinarily complex as a range of motives drive these awards. Some grants are designed to promote access for low-income families, other grants are designed to attract students with specific skills (e.g. strong academic preparation) to campus, and a final set of grants are designed to increase revenue in the same way that coupons and early-bird prices do,” noted Cheslock. “Trying to sort out how these range of awards affect the prices that low-income students pay is a difficult task, and our new classification system seeks to make that task simpler.”

In a separate 2013 study — “The Effect of Florida’s Bright Futures Program on College Enrollment and Degree Production” — Zhang and co-authors Shouping Hu and Victor Sensenig examine the effects of Florida’s program that rewards high school graduates for high academic achievement.

Although the awards from these programs are not targeted on low-income students, they could still reduce the cost for some as the award criteria are relatively broad: Students with a 3.0 grade-point average and who score a 970 on the SAT qualify. Approximately 60 percent of all high school graduates within Florida who took the SAT meet those criteria.

Zhang and his co-authors find that program did alter the number of Floridians who remained in-state as it encouraged some to attend college and others to choose an in-state, rather than an out-of-state institutions. The enrollment of students from lower-income families appeared to be affected similarly as the enrollment of other students.

“The federal government, state governments, and colleges and universities are facing difficult financial futures, which could lead to less spending on financial aid,” Cheslock said. “An understanding of how well-targeted financial aid programs, as well as less-well-targeted but more politically popular programs, influence the prices and enrollment decisions of low-income students will help us identify the impact of any future cuts.”

by (January 2015)

Online graduate education programs rank fourth in nation

The College of Education’s online graduate education programs, delivered through Penn State World Campus, continue to be recognized as some of the best online degree programs in the nation.

The College of Education’s online graduate education programs, delivered through Penn State World Campus, continue to be recognized as some of the best online degree programs in the nation.

Penn State’s World Campus ranks fourth, and first among Big Ten institutions, in 2015 rankings released today (Jan. 7) by U.S. News & World Report. The rankings considered all regionally accredited public, private and for-profit institutions that grant master's degrees in education through Internet-based distance education courses.

Through the World Campus, the College of Education offers several master of education degrees, including programs in higher education, and learning, design and technology (LDT), which recently were ranked No. 1 and No. 4 respectively by, a leading resource for campus and online education.

“The key to the quality of our online master’s programs is that they are taught by the same College of Education faculty who teach in our classrooms, with support from experienced and skilled online educators, educational support professionals within World Campus and leaders in key professional areas,” said David H. Monk, dean of the College of Education. “Whether you are getting your degree online or on campus, you are getting the same high-quality Penn State degree, which I believe is a key factor in our consistently high online program rankings.”

U.S. News based its rankings on criteria including student engagement, student services and technology, faculty credentials and training, admissions selectivity and peer reputation. Between the start of data collection in July 2014 and the September 2014 closing date, 252 schools, or 23 percent of the schools surveyed, said they would be offering online education master's degree programs, while the rest either said they would not or chose not to respond. This count is up from 238 schools the previous year.

Student group bridges gap between current students, alumni, prospective students

A new subset of the Penn State College of Education Student Council, called the Education Ambassadors, is strengthening the College community.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A new initiative of the Penn State College of Education Student Council (ESC), called the Education Ambassadors, is creating connections among students, alumni and prospective students through a partnership with the Office of Development and Alumni Relations and Student Services.

Education Ambassadors
Education Ambassadors pose for a photo in the Chambers Building Atrium

Education Ambassadors are student representatives who communicate to the public the scope of the education field and its impact on the global society; create an awareness of the academic programs and career opportunities available to the College of Education students; and share stories of current student life at the College of Education with alumni, donors and prospective students through various means.

Ambassadors also facilitate alumni and donor functions, give tours of the College to alumni and prospective students, and partner with Student Services to help accepted prospective students make a decision to join the College.

“We’re delighted to see our students step so effectively into these leadership roles. Students are uniquely able to represent the College since they have first-hand knowledge of what is happening on the ground,” said Dean David H. Monk. “We’re very grateful for these students’ energy, commitment and willingness to be helpful, and encourage them to continue serving as our ambassadors once they graduate and become Penn State alumni.”

According to Phil Hoy, the assistant director of Alumni Relations who oversees the Education Ambassadors, the initiative benefits students because they have more opportunities to learn about the College and have increased access to the deans, offering ideas that aim to improve student life.

Hoy said the initiative also is advantageous to students because of their increased access to alumni, which can help them with career choices and job searches.

“Our alumni are excited to talk with current students at College of Education events. Alumni are always amazed at the opportunities students currently have including study abroad, linked placement and leadership opportunities through student organizations,” Hoy said.

“I believe these experiences have challenged me to push myself and my career aspirations beyond the conventional classroom and into discovering what innovation means in teaching and how to live the mission of our college,” said Michelle Hart, a junior in the Childhood and Early Adolescent Education (CEAED) program. Hart is a cofounder of the ambassadors and the secretary of ESC. She said that through the program she has seen how innovative educators can be, whether in schools, politics or companies.

“The ambassador group gives me the opportunity to help inspire other individuals to develop and follow passions for education. I am beginning my goal of advocating for education before even graduating from Penn State,” said Taylor Manalo, a junior in CEAED. Manalo is the other cofounder of the ambassadors and serves as the group’s vice president. She and Hart both were part of ESC in 2014 when they were approached by the College deans and Alumni Relations about developing the group of student representatives.

Students interested in joining the Education Ambassadors can attend an information session in September 2015. For more information, contact Hoy at .

By (January 2015)

Program Continues Support of Students Interested in Special Education

TIPS, a program in the College of Education, is offering scholarship support to those looking to become special education faculty members.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.— For the second year, Penn State is offering scholarships supporting doctoral-level study to become special education faculty members. The program in the College of Education, called Training in the Professoriate for Special Education (TIPS), includes a $20,000 scholarship and other financial support.

The goal of TIPS is to produce highly trained and prepared individuals with the necessary research knowledge and teaching skills to be successful professors in special education.

Participants will earn their doctorate in special education. To be eligible, individuals must have at least two years of full-time service in special education or a closely related field, and plan to seek a faculty position in an institution of higher education after graduation.

David Lee
David Lee
“TIPS provides strong students access to a nationally recognized doctoral program in special education,” said David Lee, professor of special education and program co-director. “Special education faculty members are in high demand nationwide. These faculty members provide the infrastructure for research and teacher training in special education. This infrastructure is key in providing effective services for children with disabilities.”
Paul Riccomini
Paul Riccomini

TIPS is a federally funded program that provides financial and academic support to full-time doctoral students in special education at Penn State.

Lee and Paul Riccomini, the co-director of the program and associate professor of special education, are both products of doctoral scholarship programs similar to TIPS.“Often times working professionals can't leave their jobs for financial reasons,” said Lee. “TIPS makes it possible for professionals with teaching experience to come back for advanced-level training.”

Applications are currently being accepted for the upcoming program, which begins in fall 2015. For more information, contact Lee at or Riccomini at . For more information, please visit the TIPS website.

By (January 2015)

Examining a New Way of Working

A research team in the College's Workforce Education and Development Program is exploring how process-driven work models are influencing the culture in higher education.
Examining a New Way of Working

From left- Jennifer Nicholas, Matt Raup, Leen Zaballero, and Sohel Imroz.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A team of researchers in the College of Education presented a case study on how implementing process-driven work models in higher education is changing the culture. Jennifer Nicholas, an instructor in the College and a doctoral student in the Workforce Education (WF ED) and Development Program and her team presented their findings in October 2014 at the Organization Development Network Annual Conference in Philadelphia.

Jennifer Nicholas
Jennifer Nicholas
Nicholas and her colleagues and fellow WF ED doctoral students, Matthew Raup, Leen Zaballero and Sohel Imroz, said that Penn State and other higher education institutions are starting to implement work processes such as Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) in order to remain competitive.

“Universities are losing state and federal funding and are in stiff competition with for-profit educational organizations,” said Raup. “This has caused universities to become more business-minded and efficient.”

Nicholas and Group
From left to right: Jennifer Nicholas, Matt Raup, Leen Zaballero and Sohel Imroz.

The case study focuses on Outreach Information Technology (OIT), a subunit of Penn State Outreach and Online Education that began the ITIL implementation in 2010. The team has a firsthand perspective on the implementation because Raup works for OIT.

Nicholas said that the case study, which is still in progress, explores the cultural factors at play in an ITIL implementation embedded in the university context. This would enable the WF ED team to learn things that may help with the larger Penn State implementation.

ITIL, by definition, focuses on IT service management. However, the main focus of ITIL is service management, said Raup.

“It would certainly benefit higher education to perform service management in a more efficient model,” said Raup.

ITIL is a process-driven model that has been used in the private sector for many years. It promotes efficiency, quality and accountability. Created by the British government in the 1980s, it took off with businesses a decade later. Recently, higher education has initiated its adoption, including Boston University, Ohio State, Emory University and Yale.

According to Nicholas, ITIL is considered a best practice in business, hence making it a logical option for universities to pursue.

“Everyone will benefit from this,” said Raup. “The efficiency will help the bottom line and keep costs down, which helps both student tuitions and alumni who donate to their alma mater. It helps students, faculty and staff from a quality perspective because the services that they receive should be done with more quality and consistency. It also helps staff who perform the services by giving them more structure and greater definition.”

One of the challenges of implementing ITIL or any process-driven model is that by doing so, it often makes things worse before they get better, said Raup.

Nicholas added that as with many large institutions, people tend to work in silos, and process-based work tears down silos, which can disrupt the way people are used to working.

“It takes a high level of commitment from management and patience from the staff to work through the transformational changes,” said Nicholas. “Culture is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome in a change implementation because people naturally resist change. Leaders need to study successful implementations to discover what works well and manage culture effectively.”

Another key culture change would be in the higher education environment, which according to Raup can be more relaxed, creative and people-focused.

“ITIL is focused on process and metrics, and success is measured by meeting those metrics,” said Raup. “This new metric-focused approach greatly changes the culture by comparing everything to industry standards, which are outside of the immediate reality of university culture.”

Some of these changes are necessary, said Raup. However, the impact is still unclear.

“For example, education typically pays lower salaries than business, but the trade-off is a more flexible and laid-back environment,” said Raup. “As processes and standards become more businesslike, salaries and culture will have to become more businesslike, but is that a good thing?”

The WF ED team said that they would like to expand their research to the University’s IT Transformation (ITX) Program, which is looking to establish shared service management processes and policies for the University over the next five years.

“There are years of research to be done at Penn State alone,” said Raup. “The research done here should be relevant for other higher education institutions across the world.”

By (January 2015)

$1 million grant to support master’s program in rehabilitation counseling

The College of Education’s top-rated Rehabilitation Counseling program was recently awarded a five-year, $1 million training grant by the U.S. Department of Education that will support the recruitment, admission, training and employment of 40 new master’s level students interested in serving people with disabilities.
$1 million grant to support master’s program in rehabilitation counseling

Jim Herbert

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The College of Education’s top-rated Rehabilitation Counseling program was recently awarded a five-year, $1 million training grant by the U.S. Department of Education that will support the recruitment, admission, training and employment of 40 new master’s level students interested in serving people with disabilities.

The grant provides master’s students a stipend of $22,500 for the first year of the Counselor Education program, which requires four semesters and one summer session. During the second year of study, students are eligible to receive a paid internship through the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Project directors Jim Herbert, professor of education, Wendy Coduti and Jason Gines, assistant professors of education, drafted the grant application to help alleviate the critical shortage of qualified vocational rehabilitation counselors in the United States.

Data collected by the U.S. Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) revealed Pennsylvania’s national region, including six states on the east coast, projects a need to hire at least 270 vocational rehabilitation counselors.

Jim Herbert
Jim Herbert

“While there are a number of rehabilitation counseling graduate programs in the region, Penn State’s Rehabilitation Counseling program has been consistently rated by U.S. News & World Report as one of the top five programs in the U.S. for the past 30 years and its faculty have received a number of national awards for their research, teaching and professional service contributions,” Herbert said.

The curriculum promotes the skill development necessary for entry-level state vocational rehabilitation counselors through both didactic and experiential learning. Students complete additional coursework specific to becoming state vocational rehabilitation counselors, and work directly with people with disabilities. As part of their training, students also complete a 600-hour internship experience affiliated with a state vocational rehabilitation agency.

“Students will receive direct training in work roles performed by state vocational rehabilitation counseling including assessment, case management, career and personal counseling, client advocacy and job placement,” Herbert said.

Upon graduation, students supported by the grant must fulfill a federal requirement to work full-time for any state vocational rehabilitation office within the United States for two years. After the two-year employment period, the person may leave to pursue other career opportunities if desired.

“As the rehabilitation counseling program has a long history of being awarded these training grants, we find that the overwhelming majority of RSA scholars remain with the state vocational rehabilitation program and have distinguished careers as counselors, supervisors and administrators,” Herbert said.

Current master’s students in the Counselor Education Program (rehabilitation counseling emphasis) and prospective students applying for next year’s admission class at University Park are eligible to apply for the grant. Interested students must maintain satisfactory academic progress throughout the program, pursue graduate training on a full-time basis and indicate a strong interest and commitment to working with people with disabilities.

By (January 2014)

Jim Herbert

Jim Herbert
Jim Herbert
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Liza Conyers

Liza Conyers
Liza Conyers
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Faculty member to share research at White House meeting

College of Education faculty member Liza Conyers will share her expertise on HIV and workforce development at a special White House meeting on Monday (Jan. 26).
Faculty member to share research at White House meeting

Liza Conyers

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – College of Education faculty member Liza Conyers will share her expertise on HIV and workforce development at a special White House meeting on Monday (Jan. 26).

Liza Conyers
Liza Conyers
Conyers, associate professor of counselor education, rehabilitation and human services, will present information at this meeting with members of the White House Office on National AIDS Policy, board members of the National Working Positive Coalition and administrators from CSAVR to discuss implementation of the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Passed on July 22, 2014, WIOA is scheduled to go into effect on July 1.

“I recently completed a study that showed that people with HIV who used vocational rehabilitation had better outcomes related to the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, including increased access to care; reduction of risk behaviors associated with HIV transmission; and higher rates of engagement in supplementary employment services,” Conyers said. “My efforts are to try to figure out how we can coordinate services among federal agencies, to ensure that people with HIV/AIDS who need vocational rehabilitation services are getting them. The results of a national survey I completed in 2008 showed that many people with HIV were not familiar with vocational rehabilitation services.”

The Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) System is authorized and funded under what is now the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). One of the regulations in the act is that 15 percent of funding for vocational rehabilitation services has to be targeted for youth in transition.

“Although I agree with the importance of addressing the needs of youth in transition, I raised concerns about the implications of that requirement because no additional funds are provided to meet this new mandate, which will make it more challenging for state vocational rehabilitation services to meet the needs of adults with chronic illness. I questioned whether it would be important to consider the possible public health impact of VR services when considering how to best improve services and resources for this population,” Conyers said.

Conyers said this issue is of critical importance, because of the advances in treatment of HIV and AIDS.

“Many people might still think, ‘Oh, why would people with AIDS work?’ because they may hear AIDS and think somebody’s dying. And on the other hand some people may be reading the popular media and saying, ‘If they’re taking drugs there’s no problem,’” Conyers said. “HIV, like all chronic or episodic illnesses, can lead to significant disruptions to vocational development, and not everybody responds to treatment the same way. It’s a very, very complex challenge.”

Conyers initially raised her concerns at a meeting she attended in December to discuss the critical issues faced by programs available under the Ryan White Care Act, which works with cities, states and local community-based organizations to provide services to an estimated 536,000 people each year who do not have sufficient health care coverage or financial resources to cope with HIV disease.

“One of the people at the Ryan White Policy Project meeting was Connie Garner, former Congressional Aide for Sen. Kennedy. She’s worked on the Affordable Care Act, the Ryan White Care Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the prior Workforce Investment Act,” Conyers said.

Garner thought Conyers’ research would be valuable to those implementing WIOA and invited Conyers to follow-up. She did, by emailing Garner and others, including Douglas M. Brooks, director of the Office of National AIDS Policy.

“I wanted to share the results of my research and how it relates, because I don’t think there’s ever been any research that shows the relationship between vocational rehabilitation and public health outcomes,” Conyers said. “In addition to my research, there are broader studies that provide some evidence that when people are working they take better care of themselves. So basically I was just asking about whether there would be an opportunity to offer that information, and I thought that was going to be the end of it.”

Instead, Conyers received an invitation to share her research in a meeting hosted by the White House Office of National AIDS Policy with the CEO and deputy director of the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation, among others, to discuss these issues and to explore what might be the best way to move forward.

“I don’t know what the specific outcome of the meeting will be,” Conyers said. “But I’m sure already there’s been an impact because of all the people we’re talking to and educating just to prepare for the meeting.”

Conyers also thinks that beyond these specific regulations it may be possible to address other, broader areas, such as how to meet the employment provisions of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

This is not Conyers’ first trip to the White House on official business.

“I was invited to the White House for a strategic meeting last August among top federal leaders across a range of departments to consider the employment provisions of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. I opened the meeting to provide a summary of the research in this area. It was a discussion about what the different agencies are currently doing and what would we all need to do to work together to continue to address these issues.”

In 2010 she was invited to a White House Summit related to HIV and Aging. The summit was videotaped and can be seen on YouTube.

Conyers also was invited by the Secretary of Labor to present at a federal roundtable on HIV and employment in 2011; by members of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for a research team related to equal employment opportunity research; and by the Department of Labor and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to participate in a recorded discussion of some of the research on and importance of HIV and employment issues for training that they were developing.

Conyers will be embarking upon a sabbatical in the fall to work with the Pennsylvania Department of Health to integrate some of these issues into their processes and do a more thorough assessment of the vocational needs and resources for Pennsylvanians with HIV and AIDS.

For more information about Conyers’ research, click here.

By (January 2015)

Seminar series has participants ‘Questioning Numbers’

“Questioning Numbers,” a seminar series focused on understanding and assessing research evidence, will continue from 1 to 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 26, in 304 Keller Building on the University Park campus.

 “Questioning Numbers,” a seminar series focused on understanding and assessing research evidence, will continue from 1 to 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 26, in 304 Keller Building on the University Park campus.

David Passmore, distinguished professor of workforce education and development in the College of Education, developed the series, which consists of eight seminars taking place on selected Mondays during the spring 2015 semester.

The second seminar, set for Monday, Jan. 26, will examine an article on gender roles, leadership and self-confidence. Passmore provides the articles for discussion online prior to the seminar to encourage group discussion during each hour-long seminar.

The seminars are free and do not require preregistration, although participants are asked come to the seminar having read the article for discussion and ready to participate. Passmore also welcomes articles that include quantitative work participants would like to discuss.

For those unable attend the seminars in person, each session is available online via a live stream for PC, Mac, iOS and Android. In addition, each seminar is recorded and uploaded to YouTube.

More information on dates of the remaining seminars, links to articles and recorded sessions can be found at online.

By (January 2015)

IES Grant Preparation Seminar

The College of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES) grant preparation seminar will provide information and guidance to faculty who are interested in applying for the IES grant programs.

When: Jan 28, 2015 from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Where: 409H Keller Building

Contact: Yoonkung Oh,

Add to calendar: vCal | iCal

The College of Education is hosting a free Institute of Education Sciences (IES) grant preparation seminar to provide information and guidance to faculty who are interested in applying for the IES grants programs. A panel of College of Education faculty with previous experience of success will share their experiences with submission procedures, the review process, and insights on how to write a successful application to the IES grants programs. The topics may include, but are not be limited to:

  • Statistics about the methods used in previous IES-funded projects
  • Submission/resubmission and review process
  • How to organize research plans for different IES Goals How to build a research team
  • Advice for first-time applicants
  • Specific questions/concerns from those planning to submit next year 

Anyone interested in obtaining funding from the IES are welcome to attend. Coffee and bagels will be provided, thanks to the sponsorship from the Educational Research Initiative (ERI). Please RSVP to (Yoonkyung Oh).

Questioning Numbers

"Questioning Numbers," a seminar series that examines journal articles through group discussion will be held throughout the spring 2015 semester.

When: Jan 26, 2015 to
Apr 27, 2015

Where: 304 Keller Building on the University Park Campus of Penn State or join from PC, Mac, iOS or Android at You may participate “live” or online. Or join by phone at 1.415.762.9988 or 1.646.568.7788 (US Toll) with Meeting ID: 740

Contact: David Passmore, , (814) 863-2583

Add to calendar: vCal | iCal

David Passmore
David Passmore
David Passmore, distinguished professor of workforce education and development in the College of Education, is leading the "Questioning Numbers" seminar series that examines journal articles through group discussion. Seminars are free and do not require preregistration, although participants are asked to come having read the article for discussion, provided online, and ready to participate. Seminars are held on Mondays from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. throughout spring 2015 and dates are on the "Questioning Numbers" website.

More information about this event…

Research suggests school accountability measure is inaccurate

Research by Ed Fuller, executive director of the Center for Evaluation and Educational Policy Analysis (CEEPA) in Penn State’s College of Education, suggests that Pennsylvania’s School Performance Profile (SPP) scores are inaccurate measures of school effectiveness.
Research suggests school accountability measure is inaccurate

Ed Fuller

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- There is near universal agreement among policymakers that schools should be held accountable for meeting high expectations. In fact, every state has adopted some form of a school accountability system. However, there are serious questions about what these accountability systems actually measure and whether the systems accurately identify school effectiveness.

Ed Fuller
Ed Fuller
Research by Ed Fuller, executive director of the Center for Evaluation and Educational Policy Analysis (CEEPA) in Penn State’s College of Education, suggests that Pennsylvania’s School Performance Profile (SPP) scores are inaccurate measures of school effectiveness.

“Researchers have consistently argued that accountability measures such as SPP scores must be adjusted for factors outside the control of educators in order to accurately identify school effectiveness,” Fuller said. “The Commonwealth’s SPP scores are strongly associated with student- and school-characteristics, and therefore may not be accurate in their assessments.”

Instead, Fuller said, “SPP scores are more accurate indicators of the percentage of economically disadvantaged students in a school than of the effectiveness of a school.”

Fuller’s research suggests that the currently available SPP scores should not be used to make judgments about school effectiveness unless the scores from one school are compared to only the SPP scores from schools with similar student- and school- characteristics. Even then, he says the comparison should be used cautiously as other unmeasured factors may explain differences in scores.

“There are a number of options that the Commonwealth could employ to calculate SPP scores that are more accurate measures of school effectiveness. In doing so, the Commonwealth would be assisting educators to improve their practice while providing valid information to the public and policymakers about the effectiveness of their local schools,” Fuller said.

In addition, Fuller cautions that SPP scores should not be used as a component of educator evaluations because it will lead to inaccurate judgments about teacher and principal effectiveness and potentially exacerbate existing inequities in the distribution of teachers.

“Because the SPP scores are so strongly correlated with student characteristics, teachers and principals in schools serving high percentages of economically disadvantaged students will be identified as less effective than they really are while those serving in schools with low percentages of economically disadvantaged students will be identified as more effective than in actuality,” Fuller said. This could lead to the most qualified and effective teachers seeking jobs in schools with high SPP scores, magnifying the existing inequities in the distribution of educator quality across schools.

Fuller’s research includes several recommendations. They are:

-- Review the percentage weights assigned to the various SPP components. Specifically, the Commonwealth should carefully assess the weights assigned to the individual indicators and components and discuss increasing the weights of the indicators and components with the weakest relationships with student- and school- characteristics.

-- Create an online tool that identifies comparison schools for each school in the Commonwealth. The identification of comparison schools would be based on high-quality statistical efforts that accurately identify schools with similar student- and school- characteristics. The set of comparison schools would provide educators with an appropriate set of schools against which they could compare their own school effectiveness score. Such a system would also give local educators and policymakers a far more accurate view of local school effectiveness.

-- Construct an alternative rating system outside the system required by the USDoE. This alternative system would adjust the SPP scores for student- and school- characteristics outside the control of educators so these alternative SPP scores would more accurately capture school effectiveness. This would be beneficial in two ways. First, the public and policymakers would have more accurate information about schools, thus could make far more informed judgments and choices about the schools. Second, educators in lower performing schools could accurately identify high-performing comparison schools from which they could learn.

-- Recognize the flaws in the current system and work collaboratively to build a more accurate system. The Commonwealth should recognize the strengths and weaknesses of the current SPP effort and engage educators, policymakers, and the public in a discussion about how to more accurately capture school effectiveness. Importantly, the Commonwealth should provide data to researchers so that those with experience in evaluating such systems could provide unbiased and useful information about creating more effective systems.

Fuller said that to assist educators in making more accurate judgments about their own effectiveness and in selecting appropriate comparison schools, CEEPA will create a new index that adjusts the existing scores based on available data related to student characteristics and other school contextual factors.

The mission of the CEEPA is to provide unbiased, high-quality evaluation and policy analysis services to education and other organizations in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and across the nation.

For more information, visit online.

By (February 2015)

Study identifies children at risk for persistent mathematics difficulties

A recent study led by Paul L. Morgan, associate professor of education, suggests early screening and intervention may prevent persistent math difficulties (PMD) for at-risk children.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A recent study published in the Journal of Learning Disabilities suggests early screening and intervention may prevent persistent math difficulties (PMD) for at-risk children.

The study identifies at-risk children as being those as young as 2 years old from low socioeconomic status (SES) households; with cognitive and behavioral issues; and with vocabulary and reading difficulties.

A recent study published in the Journal of Learning Disabilities suggests early screening and intervention may prevent persistent math difficulties (PMD) for at-risk children.Previous studies have found that young children experiencing mathematics difficulties will likely continue to experience these difficulties as they grow older. Yet researchers, policymakers and practitioners previously knew very little about which children are likely to experience PMD, according to Paul L. Morgan, associate professor of education in Penn State’s College of Education and lead author of the study funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.

Morgan said the study strongly indicates that the SES status of the family matters quite a lot in terms of increasing children’s risk of repeatedly experiencing low mathematics achievement.       

“Schools can’t do much to change a family’s economic circumstances, but schools can decide how they allocate extra resources and how early they intervene to help children who seem to be struggling academically,” Morgan said.

Morgan suggested that early screening and intervention efforts for PMD should be happening systematically at school entry, which he believes often is more beneficial and cost-effective than providing them when children are older.

He added that the findings indicate that interventions may need to be multi-faceted, so that they target both early mathematics and reading difficulties, and behavior problems. He added that struggles in mathematics increase children’s risk for behavioral problems in school.

The analyses by Morgan and his colleagues indicated that attending preschool or Head Start could lower the risk for PMD, suggesting that greater access to these early-learning environments may help more U.S. children from experiencing PMD.

“Before entering school, children may not have much informal exposure to mathematics. Conversations and activities that include talking about mathematics may help reduce children’s later struggles when they are being taught more formally in the elementary- and middle-school grades,” Morgan said.

For this study, Morgan and his colleagues analyzed two nationally representative, longitudinal data sets of U.S. children maintained by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. One sample of children was followed from birth to kindergarten entry; the other was followed from kindergarten entry to the end of eighth grade.

For the preschool children, factors that increased the children’s risk for PMD included low general cognitive functioning, vocabulary difficulties and being from low socioeconomic status households.

For elementary- and middle-school students, experiencing reading difficulties, mathematics difficulties and attention-related behavioral difficulties increased the risk of PMD, as did being from lower SES households.

“It appears that children who struggle in mathematics often do not ‘grow out of it,’ and so a ‘wait and see’ approach might only have ‘wait to fail’ consequences for many children.” said Morgan.

By Samantha Schwartz (February 2015)

RE-AIM project targets alumni feedback to improve program

Research has shown that the better the training students receive, the longer they stay in their chosen field. Three professors in Penn State’s College of Education want to hear that themselves from graduates who majored in special education.

Research has shown that the better the training students receive, the longer they stay in their chosen field. Three professors in Penn State’s College of Education want to hear that themselves from graduates who majored in special education.

Associate professors of special education Kathleen McKinnon and Mary Catherine Scheeler along with assistant professor of special education Jenny Frank are launching Project RE-AIM, a survey that will reach out to special education graduates from as many as 10 to 12 years ago.

McKinnon said the project takes an innovative approach by using the RE-AIM framework to capture not only the numbers of graduate responses, but also to allow for questions regarding program effectiveness and adoption of key practices from the program in the teachers’ work. 

“What we hope to gain from that are a number of data that our students are teaching, and then of those respondents, how well our program prepared them on a number of entities as well as just overall,’’ McKinnon said. “One of our questions is if they would recommend our program. We’re really looking to reach out to them to find out if they’ve adopted what we’ve taught them.’’

Selected administrators who employ Penn State special education graduates also will be surveyed, McKinnon said.

The project has five components:

Reach: Describes percentage of people – and their characteristics – from a given population who participate in a program.

Effectiveness: Refers to the positive and negative outcomes of the program.

Adoption: Describes the degree to which the target population adopts key practices.

Implementation: Describes the extent to which participants implement training as intended.

Maintenance: Reflects the degree to which a student continues to implement key practices.

“I think the idea of getting in contact and learning from your graduates is something that is a growing need,’’ McKinnon said. “The accreditation body that we have in the College is going to be requiring that. When the time comes, we may have some data.’’

McKinnon, Scheeler and Frank referred in their proposal to U.S. Department of Education research that revealed that retaining good special educators has been a long-standing problem in the field of special education. There are teacher shortages in 46 states, including Pennsylvania, department research showed.

The RE-AIM framework has the potential to be adapted to other program evaluations in the college with the ability to individualize the key practices per program, McKinnon said. 

The project is being funded by a $3,500 grant from the College of Education.

 Jim Carlson (March 2015)

Penn State Education Career Day set for March 16

Administrators from school districts will gather at the Penn Stater in search of future teachers.

Students and alumni of the College of Education can attend Education Career Day from 9 a.m. to noon Monday, March 16, at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel on the Penn State University Park campus.


Nearly 70 employers will be at the event, looking for candidates for teaching and counseling positions for pre-kindergarten through grade 12. No pre-registration is required for students to attend.


Before the event, Career Services will hold a number of preparation workshops on topics including resume-sharing and information about what to expect the day of the event. The workshops also will be broadcast live online for those unable to attend. A Penn State User ID is required to access the live stream and viewers can ask questions during the workshop using an online chat function.


Pre-fair resume sharing also is available until March 6. Those planning to attend Career Day can share resumes online with school districts in which they are interested, giving those districts the ability to preview resumes and invite students to visit their tables at the fair.


For more information about the Education Career Fair and ways to prepare, visit online.

College of Education faculty member wins William A. Kaplin Award

Associate professor of higher education Neal Hutchens honored for publishing works on law and policy.
College of Education faculty member wins William A. Kaplin Award

Neal H. Hutchens

Neal H. Hutchens, associate professor of higher education and senior research associate for The Center for the Study of Higher Education, has earned the William A. Kaplin Award for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy Scholarship.

Hutchens was honored on Feb. 14 in Orlando. The Kaplin Award recognizes scholars who have published works on education law that embrace the intersection of law and policy.

“I was extremely honored to receive the award, especially as it’s recognition for my efforts to seek to bridge issues related to higher education law and policy in much of the scholarship that I do,’’ Hutchens said. “For me, along with being a nice ‘pat on the back,’ the award provides motivation to keep moving forward with lines of scholarship on crucial law and policy issues affecting higher education, such as in the area of academic freedom.’’

Hutchens’ research also includes challenges confronting non-tenure track faculty as well as issues related to institutional autonomy in the area of state constitutional provisions meant to safeguard public colleges and universities in select states from undue external interference.

“I am thrilled that Neal is being recognized for his important contributions to our understanding of higher education law and policy,’’ said John Cheslock, director of The Center for the Study of Higher Education in Penn State’s College of Education. “Neal is a scholar who seriously engages both the world of ideas and the world of higher education practice.

“He is also someone who contributes to the scholarly community by initiating and organizing conversations, so his contributions are far-reaching,’’ Cheslock said.

Hutchens said receiving notification that he was the award’s recipient prompted surprise as well as multiple complimentary responses.

“I have been fortunate to hear kind words from many colleagues about the award, which has meant a lot to me on a very personal level,’’ Hutchens said.

“Receiving the award also reinforced to me how fortunate I have been in having outstanding professors and mentors along my academic journey. I’ve also been tremendously fortunate to have such wonderful and supportive colleagues and students here at Penn State.’’

Distinguished professor receives Lifetime Achievement Award

M. Kathleen Heid, distinguished professor in the College of Education, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics for 2015.
Distinguished professor receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Kathleen Heid

M. Kathleen Heid, distinguished professor in the College of Education, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) for 2015. 

Kathy Heid
Kathleen Heid
The Lifetime Achievement Award honors two or three individuals each year. It recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding achievements in leadership, teaching and service over a period of 25 years or more. These distinctions are made based on job performance, service at the state, national or international levels, and through service to the NCTM.

Heid was one of three recipients selected for 2015. The research of Heid and her colleagues (including University of Maryland faculty, James Fey, and Penn State faculty Rose Mary Zbiek and Glendon Blume) on the teaching and learning of mathematics has greatly impacted the use of technology in teaching mathematics and has been published in a large range of professional venues, including research reports, articles for teachers, and technology-intensive high school mathematics curricula. The focus of her research centers on teaching secondary mathematics, mathematical thinking, and the impact of technology on the teaching and learning of mathematics.

She has been a member of the NCTM since 1970 and has served on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee among other positions within the organization, as well as on the Board of Governors for the Mathematical Association of America. Heid will be presented with the award at the annual conference for the NCTM which will be held in April in Boston. More than 8,000 guests are expected to attend the meeting.

When asked what this award means to her, Heid stated, “I’m honored by it. I know other people who have received the award over the years and I have a lot of respect for them. I’m thrilled that the organization would feel that I should receive this award.“

Heid is currently co-editing a book titled “Mathematical Understanding for Secondary Teaching: A Framework and Practice-Based Situations,” as well as a facilitator’s guide, co-written by faculty from NSF-funded Centers for Mathematics Teaching and Learning and members of the National Council of Supervisors of Teachers for Mathematics.

By Katie Kavanaugh (March 2015)

Zembal-Saul earns National Science Teachers Association's Fellow Award

College of Education's department head for curriculum and instruction cited for research.
Zembal-Saul earns National Science Teachers Association's Fellow Award

Carla Zembal-Saul

Carla Zembal-Saul, department head for curriculum and instruction and a professor of science education, has received the Fellow Award given by the National Science Teachers Association.

Carla Zembal-Saul
Carla Zembal-Saul
The NSTA promotes excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning. Teaching, service and research were among the award’s requirements. Zembal-Saul, a Kahn professor of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in Penn State’s College of Education, was honored March 13 in Chicago.

“It is an honor to be recognized as a NSTA Fellow for my research on elementary science teacher learning and commitment to connecting research and practice,’’ Zembal-Saul said.

“None of this work, however, would be possible without the collaboration of outstanding colleagues – classroom teachers and administrators, science-teacher educators, science-education researchers and scientists. I am very fortunate to have a successful professional life in which I can continue to learn from my colleagues.’’

The Fellow Award recognizes extraordinary contributions to science education through personal commitment to education, educational endeavors and original work that position recipients as exemplary leaders in their field and significant contributions to the profession that reflect dedication not only to the organization but the entire educational community.

Zembal-Saul’s research investigates the development of teaching practices that support K-6 children’s participation in authentic scientific discourse and practices. She has been involved in school-university partnership work for more than 15 years. The purposeful integration of technology has played a central role in her teaching and research.



Hawaiian Islands internship quickly leads to job for College of Education student

Rehabilitation and Human Services major Carly Presher earns part-time status in 3 weeks, full-time offer 3 weeks later.
Hawaiian Islands internship quickly leads to job for College of Education student

Carly Presher, left, works with a client during her Hawaii internship.

Carly Presher, left, works with a client during her Hawaii internship.
A lifetime decision that Carly Presher had to make at an early juncture in her Penn State academic career has led to her having the time of her life.

A Las Vegas native who transferred from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Presher wanted to enroll in a theatre program because of her love of singing and acting. But she also knew that helping people was another passion in her life. When the theatre door closed on her early, another opened through which she walked into the College of Education’s Rehabilitation Human Services program.

Fast forward to an internship at a domestic violence action center she’s currently completing in Honolulu, and she’ll tell you that full-time employment resulted from that within a matter of weeks. There was a time, however, when success and happiness was on a much slower pace. She told her parents, family and friends a couple of years ago that she was leaving Penn State and moving to New York or Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.

Her grandmother acted fast and convinced her to let a full academic year play out before allowing the curtain to fall on Penn State. Thespian and a cappella groups became part of her life, and her love for the RHS major and what it stood for also grew.

“I’m so fortunate and glad that I stayed because I’ve had amazing opportunities come my way from being there and I wouldn’t change it for the world,’’ Presher said from Hawaii.

Presher, among other duties, speaks with people who are filing restraining orders against their significant others. She learns their story and if they are assessed as survivors, then legal services or case management services can be provided for them.

 That began as an internship in a community outreach and education program that was to span 20 hours per week over two semesters; she had to commit for a year. While taking a domestic-violence training course, a program manager asked if they could hire her on a part-time basis and still have it count toward her internship.

 The difference between the community prevention side of the job and the intervention side with casework and counsel and advocacy was rather stark. Yet it suddenly unfolded into a full-time offer that Presher cleared with her internship supervisor.

 “He supported me and the rest is history,’’ Presher said. “Within like three weeks, I was hired part time and now within maybe six weeks I’m full time. This agency moves very fast. I’m juggling the judicial system, the law and people, so there are a lot of intricate parts of the puzzle. I’ve committed to a year working there, or interning, whatever the case is going to be.’’

That year encompasses graduation ceremonies in May. Presher wavered on returning to Penn State to walk but said instead of incurring those expenses that most likely her family would come to Hawaii to celebrate.

In what spare time she has, she hikes with friends, goes to the beach and explores restaurants with an aunt with whom she resides; swimming with dolphins remains on her bucket list. Presher also does some island-hopping, knows areas to visit as well as ones to avoid and stays in touch with her Penn State friends who are some 4,800 miles away.

“Passion is, I think, the single word I would use to describe her,’’ said Catherine Augustine, academic adviser and affiliate assistant professor of education (learning, design and technology). “She is always looking for ways to be involved -- authentically involved -- and for ways to help change the world into a better place.’’ 

Presher’s busy agenda stretches to February 2016 when she’ll walk across the country with the American Indian Movement. Presher said she had spent some time on the Ojibwe (American) Indian Reservation in Minnesota and befriended co-founder Dennis Banks.

“We will travel 30 miles a day and spread the word to communities and educate native communities – and other communities – that diabetes is reversible,’’ Presher said. “We’ll talk about living a healthy lifestyle and talking about the culture specifically and whatever else comes along on the journey, because I’m sure there will be a lot.’’

Graduate school in Penn State’s master’s of education counseling program beginning in August 2016 also is a possibility after the nationwide walk. That’s on the heels of earning Dean’s List status in each and every semester.

“Penn State has provided me a lot,’’ Presher said. “It definitely is one of the best decisions that I ever made and I’m really glad that I stuck it out. Even if I don’t use my degree in a career specifically for human services, I have learned so much just about being a human being and being able to apply and adapt my skills to whatever arena I’m in.

“I’m very grateful.’’

By Jim Carlson (March 2015)

Career Pathways seeks volunteer tutors to help with language, technology skills

College of Education's Study of Adult Literacy assisting adults who wish to obtain a General Education Development degree.

Career Pathways, a community outreach service of the Penn State College of Education’s Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy, is recruiting volunteers to provide adults and youth who are no longer in school with language, literacy, numeracy and technology tutoring.

The program, funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, seeks to improve the basic skills of those lacking a secondary education to enable them to obtain a General Education Development degree and transition to postsecondary training or employment.

Tutors of Literacy in the Commonwealth provides the tutor training and covers adult learning theory and program expectations.

“We have outstanding, community-oriented and committed staff. Volunteers have unstinting support from staff and find the work extraordinarily gratifying,” Career Pathways director Michael Vail said.

Volunteers who complete tutor training meet twice weekly for 90-minute sessions with one learner to build skills through a learning-activity portfolio based on state-approved standardized assessments.

Career Pathways also works in tandem with PA CareerLink, a Pennsylvania workforce development system. The CareerLink in Bellefonte is a primary referral source for the Centre County program in the Bellefonte Catholic Charities.

Participants must be Pennsylvania residents, have required immigration visa status and be at least age 17 to enroll. Those under age 18 will be placed in a class with a Penn State staff member with requisite clearances. All learners matched with volunteer tutors are 18 or older.

The volunteer tutor training may be taken online. Career Pathways also welcomes interested classroom aides, site coordinators and resource specialists.

Volunteers must have a bachelors degree and commit to at least three months of tutoring for three hours per week.

Interested volunteers should contact Wendy McDowell at

College of Education professor receives $150,000 grant

Paul L. Morgan, associate professor of education and director of the Educational Risk Initiative, has been selected as one of six inaugural recipients of the Spencer Foundation Midcareer Grant. The $150,000 award will support Morgan as he acquires new substantive knowledge, theoretical perspectives and methodological tools, particularly in regards to understanding racial/ethnic disparities in disability identification and treatment.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Paul L. Morgan, associate professor of education and director of the Educational Risk Initiative, has been selected as one of six inaugural recipients of the Spencer Foundation Midcareer Grant. The $150,000 award will support Morgan as he acquires new substantive knowledge, theoretical perspectives and methodological tools, particularly in regards to understanding racial/ethnic disparities in disability identification and treatment.  Paul Morgan

“I feel very honored to have been selected as an inaugural Midcareer Grantee by the Spencer Foundation,” Morgan said. “The foundation had earlier provided me with funding for a National Academy of Education Spencer Post-doctoral Fellowship, which was instrumental in advancing my early career trajectory. With this Midcareer Grant, I will be able to extend my earlier work by examining why racial, ethnic and language minority children are less likely to be identified and treated for disabilities in the U.S. than otherwise similar white, English-speaking children.”

Currently in its first-year piloting phase, the Midcareer Grant was awarded to only six of 99 applicants. It specifically targets established scholars who are seven to 20 years postdoctorate and are interested in advancing their understanding of a compelling problem in the field of education. For Morgan’s project, that problem is the misrepresentation — specifically, the underrepresentation — of minority schoolchildren in special education, a topic he’s been studying for many years.

“Many prior studies show that minorities are disproportionately over-represented in special education,” Morgan explained. “However, our research is showing that in fact minority children are less likely to be identified and treated for disabilities, and so are comparatively under-represented in special education. These disparities in disability identification occur both prior to and following school entry, and are evident across a range of specific conditions.”

Because minority children’s disabilities may not be appropriately identified, they may be less likely to receive special education services for which they are legally entitled.

“One reason for the disparities,” Morgan explained, “is that minority children in the U.S., unfortunately, are more likely to be exposed to the risk factors that are associated with disability identification, more so than children who are white or English-speaking.” These risk factors include being born with low birth weight and being raised in poverty. However, because of both cultural and language barriers, minority children may be comparatively under-served by health and educational professionals. 

Morgan’s findings are consistent with research currently being conducted at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, which finds that minorities are often under-diagnosed and, therefore, less likely to receive treatment for disabling conditions, despite being more likely to experience these conditions. As part of his Spencer-funded Midcareer Grant project, Morgan will collaborate with public health faculty at the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions as well as faculty from Johns Hopkins School of Education’s counseling and human development program. These partnerships are designed to advance the education field’s limited understanding of how individual, family, health care system, school and community-level factors interact to result in racial and ethnic disparities in school-based disability identification processes, and how those disparities might be better addressed.

“I am very excited about the opportunity to enrich my work through collaborations with public health researchers at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, as well as with my fellow educational researchers at the School of Education,” Morgan said. “My hope is this multi-disciplinary project will help policymakers better understand and address racial disparities in school-based disability identification. I am excited to begin this work, and continue to be extremely thankful to the Spencer Foundation for their investment.”

“The Spencer Foundation is thrilled to welcome Professor Morgan into the inaugural class of Spencer Midcareer grantees,” said Robert Ream, associate program officer for the Spencer Foundation. “Dr. Morgan's work challenges conventional wisdom and questions prevailing assumptions about the over-identification of minorities in special education. We are pleased to invest in the patient cultivation of an already accomplished scholar who wants to equip himself to explore more deeply the public health dimensions of his line of inquiry.  We are pleased to see that he approaches his own research as a journey of continuous learning and improvement.”

At Penn State, Morgan also serves as a research associate for the Population Research Institute and is a faculty affiliate at both the Child Study Center and Prevention Research Center. In addition to receiving the Midcareer Grant, Morgan also was awarded the 2015 Distinguished Researcher Award from the Special Education Research Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association for his significant contributions to special education research.

By Jessica Buterbaugh (March 2015)

Morgan named Distinguished Researcher Award recipient

Paul L. Morgan, associate professor of education and director of the Educational Risk Initiative, was honored recently with a 2015 Distinguished Researcher Award.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Paul L. Morgan, associate professor of education and director of the Educational Risk Initiative, was honored recently with a 2015 Distinguished Researcher Award. The award, presented by the Special Education Research Special Interest Group (SER SIG) of the American Educational Research Association, recognizes a researcher for his or her significant contribution to special education research.

“I am truly honored to have received this award,” Morgan said. “I am very grateful to my colleagues and the members of SER SIG for their recognition and appreciation of these research efforts. My hope is that our findings result in better policies and practices for children with disabilities.”

According to SER SIG, the award is given to a researcher “whose body of research has made significant and sustained contributions to research, policy and/or practice in the field of special education.”

Morgan has excelled as a researcher since joining Penn State’s College of Education faculty in 2004. He has published 39 peer-reviewed studies and three book chapters, and has presented his research at national educational, public health, sociology and developmental psychology research conferences. His work has been published in Pediatrics, Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology, Educational Researcher, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Exceptional Children and other high-impact, peer-reviewed journals. He also has been the recipient of nearly 20 competitive grant awards, including most recently being named one of six inaugural awardees for the Spencer Foundation’s Midcareer Grant Program.

Findings from Morgan’s investigations have been reported by CBS News, CNN, U.S. News and World Report, Education Week, Fox News, The Australian, The Atlanta Journal Constitution and Reuters. His recent study on instructional practices provided to first-grade children with and without mathematics difficulties was the third-most read study published last year across any of AERA’s six peer-reviewed journals and was identified as a “top lesson” from educational research by NPR. He has been previously recognized with the Distinguished Early Career Award by the Council of Educational Children’s Division of Research and the Outstanding Senior Researcher Award by Penn State’s College of Education.

Founded in 1916, The American Educational Research Association is a national research society that “strives to advance knowledge about education, to encourage scholarly inquiry related to education, and to promote the use of research to improve education and serve the public good.” In addition to awards presented by its special interest groups, AERA’s main organization also presents awards for excellence in education research. This year, David Baker, professor of education and sociology, was honored with the Outstanding Book Award for “The Schooled Society: The Educational Transformation of Global Culture.”

By Jessica Buterbaugh (March 2015)

Graduate Program Rankings

Penn State’s College of Education and its graduate programs continue to earn high rankings, as shown in the latest national rankings of graduate programs released by U.S. News & World Report. Ten of the College’s graduate programs appear at least in the top 20 of their respective program rankings, with six programs in the top 10.

Penn State’s College of Education and its graduate programs continue to earn high rankings, as shown in the latest national rankings of graduate programs released by  U.S. News & World Report.

Ten of the College’s graduate programs appear at least in the top 20 of their respective program rankings, with six programs in the top 10.

The College is now ranked 36th in the nation among 357 graduate programs of education identified by U.S. News & World Report.

The programs are ranked this year as follows:

  • Technical Teacher Education (Workforce Education): 1
  • Rehabilitation Counseling: 6
  • Education Administration/Supervision (Ed Leadership): 7
  • Higher Education Administration: 7
  • Student Counseling/Personnel Services: 7
  • Education Policy: 10
  • Elementary Education: 14
  • Secondary Education: 14
  • Educational Psychology: 16
  • Special Education: 17