Media Mentions

The Benefits of Research-Practice Partnership Work

June 22, 2017

From Education Week:

This week we are hearing from the Madison Education Partnership (MEP). Today's post is the practitioner perspective on the partnership work introduced in Monday's post: Can Kindergarten for 4-Year-Olds Help Close Equity Gaps?

This post is by Jaymes Pyne, Graduate Researcher, and Beth Vaade, Co-Director for the Madison Education Partnership, who talked with Andrew Statz, Executive Director of Research, Accountability & Data Use for the Madison Metropolitan School District.

A perennial challenge for most research-practice partnerships is maintaining the mutually beneficial part of the equation. For the Madison Education Partnership (MEP) - a research-practice partnership between the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) and the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) - this challenge inspires the core functions of the organization.

Read more.

Bailey Smolarek: Skills Gap Doesn’t Account for Poor Jobs Numbers Here

June 20, 2017

Bailey Smolarek from the Center for Research on College to Workforce Transitions published an op-ed in The Capital Times.

From The Capital Times:

Dear Editor: Gov. Walker has pointed to a lack of skilled workers as the reason Wisconsin lost 3,800 manufacturing jobs last year.

While his response may have surprised some, the last year studying education and workforce skills Wisconsin Center for Education Research has shown me that job loss can rarely be explained so easily. Nevertheless, leaders throughout the country continue to use the idea of a “skills gap” — the gap between the skills employers need and the skills workers possess — to explain labor market concerns. Leaders like the governor use this narrative and blame workers for employment issues to keep workforce development conversations at the individual level.

However, the “skills gap” has already been debunked by numerous economists, who instead point to stagnated wages and a lack of quality job openings. Noble Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman even calls the skills gap a “zombie idea” because it is “an idea that should have been killed by evidence, but refuses to die.” Still, this idea continues to be resurrected to deflect attention from the real issues like employers having trouble hiring positions in less-desirable locations or with low wages. Moreover, manufacturing industries have also encountered a great deal of automation and outsourcing, making them quite cyclical and unpredictable.

The reality is that Wisconsinites are seeing limited numbers of well-paying jobs. UW-Milwaukee professor Marc Levine has shown that Wisconsin’s only labor market growth has been in low-wage positions. Furthermore, most economists argue that there is actually a growing number of overskilled workers.

Read more.

Implicit Bias In the Classroom: Can Video Games Help Combat It?

June 20, 2017

From Education Week:

Researchers at University of Wisconsin-Madison are developing a video game that will guide K-12 teachers through the hazards of unconscious attitudes and assumptions that affect the way they see their students, a phenomenon called "implicit bias."

This summer, the researchers will work with staff from two school districts to design the game, which will allow teachers to experience bias in the schoolyard, cafeteria and classroom from a student's perspective.

Christine M. Pribbenow, a senior scientist at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the university, says one scenario that could turn up in the game is common enough in real life—a teacher in a majority white school calls a black student by the wrong first name, confusing him for another student of color.

"What do you do about that?" said Pribbenow. "If you are calling students by the wrong name, a very simple strategy is to get to know them as individuals. If you're doing something like that, you're probably grouping kids together, like all the Asian kids together and all the black kids together."

The idea for a video game that teaches educators to recognize implicit bias is not new. Pribbenow had a hand in developing the video game Fair Play, which was the brainchild of University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of medicine Molly Carnes. In the game, university professors and administrators directly experience the discrimination against a black graduate student. Players guide the avatar, named Jamal Davis, as he navigates a university campus, networks with colleagues, picks an advisor and attends conferences. Along the way, the students and professors he runs into make assumptions about him because he's black.

Read more.

Pribbenow, Carnes Receive Baldwin Grant

June 9, 2017

Projects both large and small will help the university contribute knowledge and resources across the state, thanks to grants from the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment.

The competitive grant program is open to UW–Madison faculty, staff and students. 

One of the grants awarded went to Christine Pribbenow, Director of WCER's LEAD Center and Molly Carnes, from the School of Medicine and Public Health, for the project Do You Play Fair? Addressing Bias in K-12 Educational Settings, as described below:

Significant disparities continue to exist between black and white students in education. Recently, differential treatment of students due to unconscious cognitive processes, “implicit bias” has been identified as a contributor to negative experiences and outcomes for underrepresented minorities. Perspective-taking — or “imagining yourself in someone else’s shoes” — helps to decrease implicit bias and in turn, promotes positive feelings, attitudes and behaviors toward others. The proposed project builds upon the success of the Fair Play game, which was developed to provide players with the opportunity to take the perspective of a Black student who encounters bias incidents on a university campus as well as workshops that are currently being offered at UW–Madison and other postsecondary institutions The project will create a professional development tool that is based in a K-12 school context that will allow teachers and administrators to take the perspective of students with whom they work. Ultimately, this game will be available for use by districts across the state of Wisconsin.

Read more about all the awardees.

Rural Teachers Share Perspectives with UW–Madison Education Researchers

June 7, 2017

From the article:

WEAC members were front-and-center on a panel of public school teachers representing Wisconsin rural districts at the first-ever Teacher Speakout! at UW-Madison.

The teachers provided researchers with a first-hand look at what it’s like to live and work in rural schools.

“WEAC’s rural school educators are dedicated to bringing opportunities to their students and communities,” said WEAC President Ron Martin, an eighth grade teacher who attended the panel and talked with panelists. “Educators in rural communities know what works and what doesn’t for their students, so it’s refreshing to see attention being brought to the unique needs of these professionals.”

Seventy-seven percent of Wisconsin school districts are considered rural, yet Martin – who graduated from a rural Northern Wisconsin school – said oftentimes it’s difficult for rural educators to get their voices heard in state decisions about education. Their local and state associations help amplify their voices so they can better advocate for their students and profession.

Read more.

Hess, McAvoy Discussion Project Aims to Get People Talking Across Racial Lines

May 31, 2017

From Madison 365:

One of many benefits of a diverse academic space is students can learn from one another and create a better learning experience overall, but this only happens when class discussions are structured to facilitate constructive conversations, according to Paula McAvoy, program director for the Center of Ethics and Education at UW-Madison.

“Colleges want diversity on campus because diversity is good for learning, but if students are just sitting next to each other taking lecture notes, you haven’t really gotten the positive outcomes of diversity, which is learning from people who think differently than you do,” said McAvoy.  “If we want diverse campuses and want them to be positive learning experiences we need to learn how to get students talking to each other.”

McAvoy and School of Education Dean Diana Hess plan to do just that with a new professional development seminar that teaches UW-Madison teaching staff how to construct and facilitate classroom discussion.

Read the entire article.

Echoes of Rural Teachers Heard by Researchers at UW-Madison

May 25, 2017

From the Dodgeville Chronicle:

Out of the 424 school districts in Wisconsin, 233 are considered “rural,” 95 are “town,” 79 are “suburban” and 17 are considered “urban.” Yet little information is known about those “rural” school districts by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) and School of Education.

“What if?” Robert Mathieu, director of WCER told a large group of stakeholders at the first Teacher Speakout!, held on the UW campus last Monday. “What if we had rural teachers come and speak to us about
what they do?”

“This is a big change for us,” he added. “WCER doesn’t have a strong portfolio in rural research. But that’s going to change.”

Read more.

UW-Madison’s Jackson speaks in video promoting NSF’s INCLUDES initiative

April 20, 2017

UW-Madison's Jerlando Jackson is showcased in a new video speaking about the National Science Foundation's (NSF) INCLUDES initiative. 

The INCLUDES Initiative aims to develop STEM talents from all sectors and underrepresented groups in society. 

Jackson is UW-Madison's Vilas Distinguished Professor of Higher Education and is the director and chief research scientist of Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory (Wei LAB), which is housed in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER). He is a faculty member with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis and is a Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE) faculty affiliate.

Jackson is a collaborating investigator on an INCLUDES initiative called, "The Consortium of Minority Doctoral Students."

This project examined three doctoral scholars programs to identify proven, high-impact and scalable recruitment, retention and mentoring strategies for increasing the number of Hispanic and Black/African American doctoral students in engineering, computing and information sciences programs.

Data from UW-Madison’s Hillman, Bruecker, Crespín-Trujillo cited in ‘The Atlantic’

April 20, 2017

Data from UW-Madison's Nicholas Hillman, Ellie Bruecker, and Valerie Crespín-Trujillo was cited in an article in The Atlantic discussing the impact of ​recent changes to the FAFSA, known as "Early FAFSA," on student completion.

This year, FAFSA applications were available three months earlier than in previous years, and applicants were able to easily input their information with an IRS data-retrieval tool. According to the article, “The aim of these changes was to make FAFSA completion easier and to give students a clear picture of their aid eligibility much earlier in the college-application process than in the past. The Obama administration, schools, and college-access organizations expected that the updates would get more people to complete the FAFSA, to do so earlier in the year and, ultimately, to attend college.”

The article reports that Hillman, Bruecker, and Crespín-Trujillo “have been tracking FAFSA completions for several years using federal data. For the latest FAFSA cycle, their graph shows a steep climb in the opening months. After hitting 1 million completed applications by December, the number of new FAFSAs slowed down until another, small surge in late February, as financial-aid deadlines approached.”

However, “in an unpublished paper, Hillman, Bruecker, and Crespín-Trujillo show that over the last three years, high schools in western states, schools with higher shares of African American students, and schools with high numbers of low-income students have lower FAFSA-completion rates than the typical high school nationally, which is a bit shy of 50 percent."

Hillman is an associate professor with the School of Education's Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis (ELPA) who researches higher education finance and policy, and is a Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE) faculty affiliate. Bruecker and Crespín-Trujillo are ​Ph.D. students ​in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.

Alibali Recognized with Kellett Mid-Career Award

March 30, 2017

From the article:

Eleven members of the UW–Madison faculty have won Kellett Mid-Career Awards.

The Kellett awards recognize outstanding faculty seven to 20 years past their first promotion to a tenured position. A divisional committee appointed by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education chooses winners from professors nominated by departments, Ph.D. major programs and interdepartmental groups.

Supported by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the Kellett award provides research funding to faculty members at a critical stage of their careers and is named for William R. Kellett, a former president of the WARF board of trustees and retired president of Kimberly-Clark Corp.

Martha Alibali, professor of psychology, investigates basic processes of cognitive development and mathematics learning, and their implications for instruction. Her work focuses specifically on the roles of perception, action and gesture in thinking and in instructional communication. Alibali is an award-winning teacher and a dedicated research mentor for undergraduate and graduate students.

Read more.

Teaching Trump: Should Teachers Share Their Politics?

March 30, 2017

Paula McAvoy, program director at the University of Wisconsin's Center for Ethics and Education, talks about teaching politics in the age of Trump.

From the article:

"There's a general belief in the public that teachers shouldn't be using their classroom as a soapbox but there's a ton of variation on what's allowed and what's not allowed," said Paula McAvoy, program director at the University of Wisconsin's Center for Ethics and Education.

She's seen everything from prohibitions on political statements and buttons to no policies whatsoever. But McAvoy contends shying away from political discussions in the classroom isn't the answer because schools should offer a place for young people to consider differences, challenge assumptions and form their own opinions.

Read more.

CIRTL Extends Network to SUNY Buffalo

March 29, 2017

From the story:

CIRTL — the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning — is a national network of 43 research universities that aims to improve the teaching skills and increase the diversity of future university faculty in STEM fields. Housed in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, it was established more than a decade ago with support from the National Science Foundation.

UB recently joined the CIRTL network, a move that will be a boon to UB graduate students and postdocs in the STEM fields interested in pursuing careers in academia.

CIRTL@UB, a collaboration between UB’s Graduate School and the Center for Educational Innovation (CEI), is headed by Colón, who serves as institutional leader, and administrative co-leader Xiufeng Liu, director of CEI and professor of learning and instruction. Monica Carter, a CEI staff member, will serve as program administrator. CIRTL@UB will be housed in CEI.

Read more.

Jackson, University of Florida Team up to Diversify STEM

March 23, 2017

The University of Florida and the University of Wisconsin–Madison face off in the NCAA tournament Friday, but when it comes to recruiting, the two schools are on the same team.

Juan Gilbert, the Andrew Banks Family Preeminence Endowed Chair at UF’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, and Jerlando F. L. Jackson, Vilas Distinguished Professor of Higher Education at UW–Madison, have created a National Science Foundation pilot program to help recruit and support African-American and Latino graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The Consortium of Minority Doctoral Scholars will analyze three leading organizations’ efforts to recruit, retain and mentor underrepresented students in STEM, identifying ways to diversify both industry and academia. The partnership was one among the first efforts funded through NSF INCLUDES, a nationwide initiative to make the United States more competitive in science and engineering by improving access to STEM careers.

“We live in a globally competitive market,” says Gilbert, the chair of UF's Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering. “China has a billion people, and the U.S. has 300 million. From a quantity perspective, we’re at a severe disadvantage. But quality counts more than quantity. We need to diversify our workforce to get better ideas.”

The consortium will create a portal that incorporates data from the Southern Regional Education Board’s Doctoral Scholars Program, GEM Fellowships and McKnight Doctoral Fellowships, sharing information never before available outside of those organizations.

“This will be among one of the first opportunities for longitudinal understanding of education and career pathways for African-Americans and Latinos in engineering and computer science,” Jackson says.

For Gilbert and Jackson, the consortium is the latest effort in a 12-year collaboration that has generated up to 75 percent of research published on African-Americans in computing since the 1990s. They also work together on the Institute for African-American Mentoring in Computing Sciences, an NSF-funded project that includes the University of Alabama, Auburn University, Carnegie Mellon University, Rice University and Winston-Salem State University.

Beyond the Skills Gap

March 10, 2017

Matthew Hora was recently featured on the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Journal discussing the skills gap.

From the article:

In recent years, concerns about whether college graduates are being adequately prepared for the world of work has become endemic among politicians, pundits, and higher education professionals. Indeed, career readiness, whether in community colleges or four-year universities, has become perhaps the defining issue for conversations about the future of higher education not just in the United States but around the world. At the core of this angst about college, jobs, and skills is a single question: Are the nation’s colleges and universities providing students with career competencies, or the knowledge, skills, and abilities that are required to excel in the workplace?

For many observers the answer to this question is a clear, unambiguous no.  Consequently, some foresee the “end of college” and the need to disrupt a sector that is widely viewed as resistant to change, innovation, and progress. While these critiques have also been fed by concerns about the rising price-tag of college, advances in instructional technology, and charges that higher education is elitist and out-of-touch, one idea in particular has fueled critiques of higher education and influenced a broad attempt to re-orient the sector to focus on career readiness—the skills gap.

Read more.

Brighouse Book Brings Scholars Together to Explore Major Issues in Changing Role of Universities

February 28, 2017

From the article:

What should the aims of a university be? What should students be learning? What are a university’s obligations to the public?

These are just a few of the high-level, complex and pressing questions posed in The Aims of Higher Education: Problems of Morality and Justice, a book co-edited by philosophy professor Harry Brighouse and Michael McPherson, president of the Spencer Foundation.

Earlier this month, the book won the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ Frederic W. Ness Book Award, given annually to a work that best contributes to the understanding and improvement of liberal education. The book features essays by seven philosophers exploring topics ranging from the role of the humanities, autonomy as an intellectual virtue and righting historical injustice. And their accessible approach makes the essays useful tools for professors and administrators, says Brighouse, who offered a few additional insights into the book.

Read more.