Faculty members in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development have attracted external funding from sources that include the U.S. Department of Education, Texas Instruments Foundation, Collins Foundation and other sponsors. These innovative research and professional development projects are designed to have real-world impact on regional and national education.




Passport to Literacy: Examining the Effectiveness of the Voyager Passport Intervention for Fourth-grade Students With or at High Risk for Reading Disabilities; Florida State University/IES; PI – Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba; July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2017

This project, funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (Goal 3: Efficacy), aims to examine a widely-used, reading intervention, Voyager Passport (Passport), for fourth grade students with reading difficulties and disabilities. The intervention is being tested in schools in West Dallas and in Northern Florida. The team of researchers include Dr. Jeannie Wanzek from the Florida State University, who is the Principal Investigator (PI) and her Co-PIs, Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba at Southern Methodist University and Dr. Yaacov Petscher at FSU. The SMU-based team includes: Dr. Brenna Rivas, Dr. Francesca Jones, Dawn Levy, and Jenni Lawton.

Project Intensity: The Development of a Supplemental Literacy Program Designed to Provide Extensive Practice with Multiple-Criteria Text for Students with Intellectual Disabilities; IES; PI – Dr. Jill Allor; Co-PIs – Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba & Dr. Paul Yovanoff; July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2017

The purpose of this grant is to develop (or select) carefully designed texts and application lessons to provide students who are struggling to learn to read, particularly those with intellectual disabilities, with (a) focused opportunities to develop listening and reading comprehension, (b) additional cumulative review of key skills, and (c) explicit instruction in the transfer and application of skills to text. The project is led by Dr. Jill Allor (PI), Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba & Dr. Paul Yovanoff (Co-PIs).

United Way of Metropolitan Dallas Community Impact Grant 2013 – 2016: PI – Regina Nippert; July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2016

The Center on Communities and Education is partnering with United Way of Metropolitan Dallas to develop an electronic case management system that will enable participating organizations in The School Zone (West Dallas schools and nonprofits) to access approved student data and target their resources to specific student needs. The purpose of this and all of The School Zone’s interventions is to improve academic achievement for West Dallas students by 5% annually. The goal is that by 2020, 80% of these students will be on track for college and careers at every age group.






Elementary School Students in Texas: Algebra Ready (ESTAR) Diagnostic Assessment Development Project; ESC Region XIII / TEA; PI – Dr. Leanne Ketterlin Geller; September 1, 2013 – August 30, 2014

RME’s work with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has been extended to include diagnostic assessments for students in grades 2-4. The Elementary School Students in Texas: Algebra Ready (ESTAR) project began with universal screeners, which were released in the fall of 2013. With the success of the MSTAR Diagnostic Assessments, (grades 5-8), TEA has continued their partnership with RME and the ESTAR Diagnostic Assessments are currently in development. The diagnostic assessments will help teachers identify why students are struggling in key algebra-readiness content areas.

TEKS Alignment for Universal Screener Math Item Bank; istation; PI – Dr. Leanne Ketterlin Geller; July 1, 2013 – August 31, 2014

RME’s work with Istation was renewed to enhance the existing Universal Screening Assessment System in Mathematics item bank in grades 2-8 to align with the revised Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. Information from administering these computerized adaptive tests is reported to teachers in order to support making two instructional decisions: (1) to identify students who are struggling in mathematics, and (2) identify the intensity of instructional support students will need to improve their performance.

Project ELM (Early Literacy Measurement): Investigating the Technical Adequacy of Progress Monitoring Measures for Kindergarten Students at-risk for Reading; Texas A&M University / IES; PI - Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba; July 1, 2013 - June 30, 2016

This project, funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (Goal 5: measurement), aims to examine the reliability and validity of existing early reading assessments in order to make definitive recommendations to teachers and schools regarding the measure(s) that may be the most reliable, valid, and preferable for monitoring kindergarten reading growth. The team of researchers include Dr. Nathan Clemons from Texas A and M University, who is the Principal Investigator (PI) and his Co-PIs, Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba at Southern Methodist University, Dr. Shanna Hagen-Burke, Dr. Oi-man Kwok, and Project Advisor Dr. Deborah Simmons at TAMU. The SMU-based team includes: Dr. Brenna Rivas, Dr. Francesca Jones, Dawn Levy, and Jenni Lawton.

Faculty Spotlight


Journalist Katrina Schwartz with California Public Media station KQED reported on the research of SMU Assistant Professor Candace Walkington, who authored a year-long study of 141 ninth graders at a Pennsylvania high school and found that students whose algebra curriculum was personalized to their interests mastered the concepts faster than those students whose learning wasn’t personalized. The article, “In Teaching Algebra, the Not-So-Secret Way to Students’ Hearts,” was published Dec. 9.