News from WCER

Increasing graduate student debt affects African American students most, study finds

August 15, 2019   |   By WCER Communications

A new study shows low-income and African American graduate students increasingly face a double-edged sword of advanced-degree promise and peril: better-than-average income returns on graduate and professional degrees but levels of debt to earn those degrees that outpace the debt borne by white students.

What I learned when I studied six Chicago schools transforming to personalized learning environments

August 11, 2019   |   By Rich Halverson

As a guest author in the newsletter Getting Smart, University of Wisconsin School of Education Professor Rich Halverson describes the benefits of personalized learning he witnessed during a study of six Chicago public schools involved with LEAP Innovations, a national organization that connects innovation and education to transform how students learn.

WIDA goes global

August 1, 2019   |   By Lynn Armitage

In 2008, the Shanghai American School contacted Timothy Boals, executive director of the WIDA Consortium at WCER, about using WIDA’s acclaimed research-based standards and assessments to help English-language learners. “A teacher there had used our language development tools in the States and recommended them,” Boals recalls the conversation that unofficially launched the WIDA International School Consortium.

Today, WIDA’s international program has pioneered the improvement of teaching and learning for multilingualism around the world. It has grown into a worldwide ELL network of more than 400 accredited preK-12 international schools where English is the language of instruction, in more than 100 countries.

Study Shows Power of Refocusing Student Stress in Middle School Transition

July 29, 2019   |   By Karen Rivedal, WCER Communications

A new study by education researchers at the University of Wisconsin−Madison shows that proactively addressing students’ anxieties with clear and cost-effective messaging early in the school year can lead to a lasting record of higher grades, better attendance, and fewer behavioral problems for sixth graders embarking on their stressful first year of middle school.

‘We Care for Dane Kids’ Team, Including WCER’s Graue, Wins 2nd Place, $400K to Raise Family Incomes

July 3, 2019   |   By Karen Rivedal

A campus-community partnership including WCER’s Beth Graue is one of two teams from UW-Madison to win funding in a national competition aimed at developing innovative ideas to expand and strengthen the U.S. middle class.

$1.8 Million Grant Expands Study of College Internships & How Students of Color Enter Workforce

June 25, 2019   |   By Janet L. Kelly

Over the next two years, a team of education researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison will use a new $1.8 million grant to learn significantly more about college internships and how students of color enter the workforce from college. A CCWT research team led by Matthew T. Hora will add six institutions serving students of color to expand Hora’s College Internship Study to the first nationwide investigation of the topic.

Apply for Funding Up to $30K to Study Early Childhood Education by July 15

June 12, 2019

The Center for Research on Early Childhood Education (CRECE) is offering two funding opportunities of up to $30K each to UW—Madison faculty and research staff interested in studying early childhood education. Applications are due July15 with more information available here:

New Study Finds Successful Student Internships Require Careful Design, Equitable Access

June 10, 2019   |   By Karen Rivedal, WCER Communications

A new working paper co-authored by Matthew T. Hora based on student experiences at three diverse colleges describes what works in successful college internships. It also provides demographic data on students who take internships, identifies key barriers for those students unable to participate in these on-the-job learning experiences and provides a model for developing better internships.

OPINION: Is This Minority Group Too Small to Have a Voice on Campus?

June 6, 2019   |   By Matthew Wolfgram, Bailey Smolarek

The Center for Research on College to Workforce Transitions’ Matthew Wolfgram and Bailey Smolarek penned an article for The Hechinger Report about the educational experiences of HMoob (Hmong)-American students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Their study found the students’ experiences are influenced and organized into spaces of belonging and exclusion, and that this geography of campus had consequences for students’ well-being, career development and educational attainment.

First Extensive Study of Long-Term English Learners Finds Significant Differences Across U.S.

May 23, 2019   |   By Lynn Armitage

The broadest study ever undertaken of long-term English learners (LTELs) in U.S. public schools underscores the need to better understand how students receive this classification, and why the size of the LTEL population varies widely across and within states.

LEAD Evaluation Affirms Lasting Benefits of the Odyssey Project

May 20, 2019   |   By Karen Rivedal

A Madison community program that works to jump-start the college careers of low-income adults through a free six-credit humanities course is yielding more than just academic benefits for many students, according to the first external evaluation in the program’s 16-year history.

A Look Inside Online Learning Settings in High Schools

May 14, 2019   |   By Annalee Good, Emily Cheng, Jennifer Darling-Aduana, Carolyn J. Heinrich

In a Brookings Institution blog post, WCER’s Annalee Good and Emily Cheng join with two Vanderbilt University colleagues to summarize their deep dive into the pros and cons of online coursework in high schools:
“Stepping back, our findings suggest both a need for caution in the rapid expansion of online courses in high schools and a need for stronger scaffolding of support and appropriate targeting of students to realize the benefits of online instruction. While online credit recovery programs potentially provide a cheap technical solution to the problem of low graduation rates, especially for upperclassmen who appear to replace failed courses with credits earned online more quickly, our results suggest this may come at the cost of learning, with longer-term implications that we are currently investigating.”

Puzzling Over “Game of Thrones” Character Motivations?

May 8, 2019   |   By Janet L. Kelly

A new interactive visualization tool created by University of Wisconsin–Madison data scientists helps fans make sense of the motivations of more than 50 main characters in HBO’s hit fantasy series, “Game of Thrones,” based on the books by George R.R. Martin. It is available free for public use at:

But the team’s purpose in creating and expanding the tool goes beyond interest in the Seven Kingdoms. “As much as we are fans of the show and enjoyed working on this project, our primary goal is to help people see the power of ENA and the other tools we’ve developed that allow researchers to work with large sets of both qualitative and quantitative data,” says Andrew Ruis, the lab’s associate director.

RERIC Partners With Rural Wisconsin

May 1, 2019   |   By Lynn Armitage

Last fall, the Wisconsin Center for Education Research launched the Rural Education Research & Implementation Center, or RERIC (rare-ik)—a first-of-its-kind center in Wisconsin dedicated to improving educational outcomes for rural students, families and schools through rigorous, partnership-based research.

WCER Evaluators Find Literacy Program for Low-Income Kids Creates ‘Safe Place’ for Learning

April 25, 2019   |   By Karen Rivedal

Odyssey Junior is wrapping up its third full year offering a literacy and arts enrichment program for low-income children in Madison, with WEC evaluators monitoring its progress every step of the way. The program, a campus-community hybrid, aims for continuous improvement fostered by ongoing evaluation.