More than $12 million in IES Grants to Support Research Benefiting Students and Educators

Aug. 20, 2020

The College of Education at The University of Texas at Austin will receive nearly $13 million in grants, beginning in the fall of 2020, from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

The projects conducted through these grants will focus on topics including math and reading for children in kindergarten through middle school, supporting college readiness among Latino students from immigrant families, and will improve professional development for teacher trainers.

The grants will fund 11 projects over a four- to five-year period. Most of the grants have been awarded to faculty and affiliates of the Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk (MCPER).

IES is the nation’s premier research, evaluation, and statistics arm of the U.S. Department of Education. Its mission is to provide scientific evidence on which to ground education practice and policy to improve outcomes for students, and to share this information in formats that are useful and accessible to educators, parents, policymakers, researchers, and the public.

“Receiving funding from IES to conduct groundbreaking research that impacts the lives of students, families, and educators is a noteworthy event for any researcher,” says Charles Martinez, dean of the College of Education. “To have so many projects funded the same year in one college of education is a truly remarkable achievement. This success speaks to the deep strengths of the college and our faculty, and to the innovative and supportive environment created in centers like MCPER. Most importantly, these new projects will advance our deep commitment to make a lasting difference for students, families, schools, and communities in Texas and beyond.”

Notes Alexandra Loukas, associate dean for research and graduate studies, “These grants are highly competitive and difficult to attain. It is impressive that our college’s researchers have been awarded multiple IES grants in this cycle. It reflects the excellence of the researchers and the importance of their work to the education field.”

“I am so proud of the entire MCPER team and their extraordinary successes with IES-approved research projects,” says Sharon Vaughn, executive director of MCPER. “IES projects are extremely competitive, and these awards are a recognition of the amazing competence of our investigators and our talented administrative support team.”

Following is a list of the newly funded research, College of Education-affiliated faculty and staff members, descriptions, and grant amounts:

The Role of Algebraic Reasoning Within Additive and Multiplicative Multi-Step Problem Solving for Students with Mathematics Difficulty

Photo of Sarah PowellSarah Powell, Principal Investigator
Associate Professor, Department of Special Education

Photo of Christian DoablerChristian Doabler, Co-Principal Investigator
Assistant Professor, Department of Special Education

Powell will lead a team that will investigate the role of algebraic reasoning within word-problem solving that involves multiple steps. Each year for three years, the team will recruit 150 fourth-grade students experiencing mathematics difficulty. Two-thirds of these students will receive word-problem intervention. The team will follow these students into fifth grade to learn whether effects last after the intervention. The goal is to learn how best to teach multi-step problem solving. The UT team includes Greg Roberts, MCPER associate director; Nancy Scammacca Lewis, MCPER project manager; and Chris Doabler, assistant professor of special education. This project will be conducted through MCPER and will receive $3,289,913 over four years.

Project LEAPS: Latino Education After School

Photo of Charles MartinezCharles R. Martinez, Jr., Principal Investigator
Dean, College of Education

Project LEAPS will intervene simultaneously with Latino parents, their students, and school counselors and teachers, all of whom play a critical role in preparing the whole family for a student’s postsecondary success, particularly as they transition to high school. The study will take place in Austin Independent School District. Using motivational interviewing, parent support sessions focused on academic encouragement and college readiness, equity-focused parent involvement strategies for educational professionals, and two summer academies prior to students’ 9th- and 10th-grade years, Project LEAPS will teach parents and students how to prepare for a student’s postsecondary education and completion. This project will receive $1.4 million over four years.

Project C2: Professional Learning to Improve the Quality of Language and Literacy Instruction for English Learners

Photo of Greg RobertsGreg Roberts, Principal Investigator
Associate Director, MCPER

Photo of Letti GrimaldoLetti Grimaldo, Co-Principal Investigator
Project Director, MCPER

Photo of Shannon GiroirShannon Giroir, Co-Principal Investigator
Senior Field Trainer/Analyst, MCPER

The purpose of this project is to develop, refine, and pilot a job-embedded professional learning model for fourth- and fifth-grade teachers to increase the quality of language and literacy instruction for English learners. The end goal is to develop effective teachers who skillfully implement high-quality instruction that increases achievement gains for English learners in these grades. This project will be conducted through MCPER and will receive $1,399,144 over four years.

Development of an Intervention to Improve Reading Efficiency for Students with or At Risk for Word Reading Disabilities

Photo of Nathan ClemonsNathan Clemens, Principal Investigator
Associate Professor, Department of Special Education

Photo of Sharon VaughnSharon Vaughn, Co-Principal Investigator
Executive Director, MCPER

Greg Roberts, Co-Principal Investigator

Findings from this study are expected to enhance knowledge about how to improve reading fluency, a previously unmet need for students with dyslexia. Researchers will develop an intervention to improve word- and text-reading efficiency for students with, or at risk for, dyslexia in grades 2 through 4. A series of experimental studies across Years 1–3 of the project will test specific instructional components that theory and evidence suggest may strengthen students’ word knowledge, enhance connections among words, and therefore promote word learning and efficient recall when reading text. The strategies that improve word- or text-reading fluency will be included in a new intervention and evaluated in a pilot randomized controlled trial in Year 4. This project will be conducted through MCPER and will receive $1.4 million over four years.

A Randomized Trial of the Connect-IT Intervention in Middle School Students with or at Risk for Reading Disabilities

Nathan Clemens, Principal Investigator

Sharon Vaughn, Co-Principal Investigator

Greg Roberts, Co-Principal Investigator

The Connect-IT intervention is designed to improve middle school students’ ability to make inferences while they read, which is critical for understanding and learning from text. Developed and pilot-tested in a previous IES grant by this team, the current project will further refine Connect-IT and evaluate its effects on middle schoolers’ reading comprehension in a large-scale randomized controlled trial. With sixth- through eighth-grade students with reading difficulties, the study will contrast the effects of Connect-IT when delivered by computer versus when it is delivered by a teacher to students in small groups. A business-as-usual instruction condition will serve as a control group. The findings are expected to increase understanding of intervention characteristics that improve reading comprehension for adolescents with reading difficulties. This project was awarded to Vanderbilt University. Clemens serves as PI of the subaward, which will be conducted through MCPER and will receive $990,000 over four years.

A Systematic Replication of a Tier 2 Kindergarten Mathematics Intervention

Christian Doabler, Principal Investigator

Researchers will conduct an efficacy replication of ROOTS, a Tier 2 mathematics intervention program to develop proficiency with whole numbers among kindergarten students at risk for mathematics difficulties. Specifically, this project will examine the onset of ROOTS (beginning of year vs. middle of year) and factors related to implementation in school districts from rural Texas and the urban area of Las Vegas. Approximately 3,000 kindergarten students will participate across the five-year project, of which 720 will receive the ROOTS intervention. This project was awarded to the University of Oregon. Doabler serves as PI of the subaward, which will be conducted by MCPER and will receive $958,000 over five years.

Multi-Tiered Systems of Support and Methodological Skill Development

Sharon Vaughn, Principal Investigator

Nathan Clemens, Co-Principal Investigator

Greg Roberts, Co-Principal Investigator

The goal of this training program is to prepare postdoctoral scholars to participate on research teams developing and validating intensive interventions as part of multi-tiered systems of support. As a result of the training, the scholars will be able to

  • conduct this type of research in their careers,
  • understand how to interpret the findings and implications of this research, and
  • teach special education teachers how to intensify academic and behavioral interventions.

This project will be conducted through by MCPER and will receive $754,000 over five years.

Evaluation of PACT: Replication in a Train-the-Trainers Context

 Photo of Elizabeth SwansonElizabeth Swanson, Principal Investigator
Research Associate Professor, Department of Special Education

This project is designed to replicate randomized controlled trials conducted by a team led by Sharon Vaughn. The team will examine the efficacy of Promoting Adolescents’ Comprehension of Text (PACT) when professional development is delivered by local (i.e., school district) trainers. Swanson will lead a team tasked with redesigning PACT professional development materials. The MCPER team will also design a PACT trainer-certification process and will deliver professional development to local trainers across the United States. This project was awarded to the American Institutes for Research. Swanson serves as PI of the subaward, which will be conducted through MCPER and will receive $609,000 over five years.

Developing an Instructional Leader Adaptive Intervention Model for Supporting Teachers as They Integrate Evidence-Based Adolescent Literacy Practices Schoolwide (Project AIM) 

Elizabeth Swanson, Principal Investigator

The goal of this adaptive intervention model (AIM) is to improve the delivery of literacy instructional practices in science, social studies, and English language arts classes in middle schools and to improve student literacy outcomes for students with and without disabilities. This project was awarded to the University of Maryland. Swanson serves as PI of the subaward, which will be conducted through MCPER and is anticipated to receive $575,000 over four years.

Exploring Cognitive and Foundational Processes Underlying Pre-algebra among Students with and without Mathematics Learning Difficulties

Photo of Peng PengPeng Peng, Co-Principal Investigator
Assistant Professor, Department of Special Education

Peng will be part of a project team working to advance assessment and instructional practices that account for weaknesses for students with mathematics difficulties. The project will consist of the following three parts:

  • Identify explicit links among cognitive and foundational processes and prealgebra competence among seventh-graders with mathematics difficulties vs. typically developing peers
  • Explore whether cognitive processes indirectly contribute to prealgebra competence through foundational mathematics processes for students with mathematics difficulties vs. typically developing peers
  • Explore factors that moderate the relation between the cognitive processes and language and prealgebra

Findings will build theoretical foundations for understanding the differentiated role of cognitive and foundational processes that underlie prealgebra competence.

The project was awarded to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Peng serves as PI of the subaward, which will be conducted through MCPER and is anticipated to receive $505,000 over four years.

In addition, Doris Luft Baker, who will begin her appointment as a tenure track professor in the Department of Special Education beginning September 1, has been awarded two IES grants.

Measuring the Science Vocabulary of Latinx Students Using Speech Recognition and Automated Scoring (MELVA-S)

Photo of Doris Luft BakerDoris Luft Baker, Principal Investigator
Associate Professor, Department of Special Education

The purpose of this grant is to develop an online formative assessment that measures the science vocabulary knowledge of Latinx bilingual students with different levels of English and Spanish language proficiencies in Grades 2 and 3. We will use speech recognition and automated scoring to score the measure and produce a preliminary report for teachers. Results of the assessment can be used to progress-monitor students, help teachers differentiate language and vocabulary instruction in science, and provide additional science vocabulary supports. In this four-year grant, researchers will (a) develop the content of the assessment, (b) build the speech recognition system, and the automated scoring system, (c) develop a psychometric model that accurately estimates vocabulary item parameters and vocabulary abilities, and (d) conduct three validation studies. This project will be conducted through MCPER and is anticipated to receive $1.4 million over four years.

Iterative Replication of Read Well in First Grade (IR2RW)

Doris Luft Baker, Co-Principal Investigator

The goal of this project is to systematically replicate the Read Well program to determine its impact on first grade children with reading difficulties. Although a previous study indicated positive outcomes for letter names and sounds and word reading development in kindergarten, additional research will help determine whether Read Well also works in first grade, for whom it works, and under what conditions. The research team will examine these issues through a series of systematic replications that include students who are culturally and linguistically diverse and that attend urban, suburban, and rural elementary schools in Virginia, California, and Texas. This project was awarded to the University of Virginia. Baker will be the PI of the subaward. This project will be conducted through MCPER and is anticipated to receive $1.03 million over five years.