Summer 2009 Newsletter

Professor Spends Quarter as Visiting Scholar at Cambridge University


Professor Michael Martinez and Professor Christina Howe at Cambridge

From March through June of this year, Professor Michael Martinez completed a sabbatical quarter at the University of Cambridge in England. Dr. Martinez was hosted by Professor Christine Howe, a developmental psychologist on the Cambridge Faculty of Education. While at Cambridge, Dr. Martinez participated in the EpiSTEMe (Effecting Principled Improvement in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics] Education) research project, in which team members design and implement research-based science and mathematics curricula for students at the middle school level. Near the end of the sabbatical quarter, Dr. Martinez presented a colloquium to the Psychology and Neuroscience in Education faculty group entitled, “Learnable Intelligence: Why Our Assumptions about Education and Human Potential Must Change.”

Abstract of Learnable Intelligence Presentation: Deliberate attempts to enhance intelligence have met with verifiable, though usually moderate, success. The summary point is this: Intelligence is modifiable in response to experience. It seems likely, then, that intelligence could be enhanced more effectively if this goal were part of the explicit mission of education. Such a goal, combined with advancing theories of intelligence, could help to shape the design of educational experience both in schools and outside of school settings. Over time, intelligence could be cultivated more deliberately and equitably. Could this be one way to advance the two cherished educational goals--so often set in  opposition and undermined--of excellence and equity?


Chair Provides Update on Department

Deborah Lowe

Chair Deborah Lowe Vandell provided an update on the Department of Education during the Spring meeting of the DoE Leadership Council. She reported that the recent external review of the department had generated positive comments about department achievements and support for the department's plans for the future, including the department's proposal, currently under review, to become the UC Irvine School of Education. Among the accomplishments highlighted by the reviewers were the following:

  • Faculty research grants have grown from ~$4,000,000 in 2007 to ~$9,000,000 in 2008 to ~$13,000,000 currently. All full professors are grant-funded, averaging $2,000,000. Seventy-five percent of associate professors are grant-funded, averaging $235,000. Sixty-five percent of assistant professors are grant funded, averaging $95,000. Grant funding supports doctoral student employment as GSRs (graduate student researchers) and department scholarships.
  • Applications to the Ph.D. program increased from 80 in 2008, yielding a 60% acceptance rate for 14 admitted (out of 20 offered admission), to 100 for 2009, yielding a 76% acceptance rate for the 16 admitted (out of 21 offered admission).
  • Admission to the teacher education programs reached an all time high of 284 in spite of the current climate where practicing teachers are receiving pink slips (notice of lay-off). 
  • Undergraduate programs recorded their largest ever number of credit hours (students enrolled in courses). 
  • The CASE (Certificate in After-School Education) program is considered an important contributor to the increase in undergraduate enrollment. During the 2008-2009 academic year, over 400 students recorded more than 5,000 hours of volunteer service at area after-school program sites. In 2009, the number of CASE after-school sites will double. DoE is consulting with University Extension to offer online classes with the goal of extending the CASE model throughout California.


Spring Leadership Council Discusses Early Childhood and Pre-school Education
Greg Duncan

The Spring meeting of the Department of Education Leadership Council explored research, education, and practice in early childhood and pre-school education. Distinguished Professor Greg Duncan initiated the series of presentations with a discussion of one of his research projects: What is School Readiness?  Funded by NSF, conducted in conjunction with the Center for the Analysis of Pathways from Childhood to Adulthood, University of Michigan, this project analyzes national data sets to address the question: What school-entry academic, attention, and behavioral skills relate to later success in school and beyond? Dr. Duncan reported that findings to date indicate that early math and reading skills matter most for primary school achievement while early behavior problems are not predictive of achievement. Anti-social behavior is predictive of high school dropout and, especially, early adult crime. Non-clinical attention problems are predictive of early but not later outcomes. He recommended that more experimentation is needed with preschool math curricula since modest predictiveness of later outcomes implies a big potential role for K-12 schools and parenting.

Associate Professor
Penny Collins

For the education portion of the presentations, Associate Professor Penny Collins emphasized that two themes guide DoE coursework: developmentally appropriate practices and socially appropriate skills. Coursework is both theory-driven and practice-based.  For example, EDUC 106: Introduction to Early Childhood Education focuses on children’s development from birth through age 8, and EDUC 107: Child Development in Education explores the pathways of older children’s growth and development over time. Practical experience is available in EDUC 141 A-B-C: Jumpstart: Early Language, Literacy, and Social Development, where students spend eight hours a week at a local preschool site. EDUC 193: Directed Study offers advanced study accompanied by practicum at an early childhood education and care center. In closing, Dr. Collins announced that a marriage and family course designed to complement the above offerings is in the planning stages.

Cheryll Ruszat

Cheryll Ruszat, Executive Director of the Montessori Schools of Irvine, Program Coordinator, and Instructor for University Montessori and the UCI Montessori Teacher Training Program, described how research and education are applied to practice in the schooling method originally developed by Maria Montessori. She explained how the Montessori method features specially designed learning materials, multi-age grouping, and opportunities for children to develop their individual potential by interaction with special materials, teaching methods, and each other. Montessori activities include practical life skills, sensory-motor skills, math, language, science, social studies, art, music, and cultural studies. Additionally, Ms. Ruszat shared research findings from Angeline Stoll Lillard (University of Virginia) and Nicole Else-Quest (University of Madison, Wisconsin), published in Science (September 2006). The researchers reported that Montessori children performed better on standardized tests of reading and math, engaged in more positive interaction on the playground, and showed more advanced social cognition and executive control, including more concern for fairness and justice, than a comparison group of children who had applied for admission to the Montessori site but were not accepted into the lottery-based program. In closing, Ms. Ruszat explained that her schools offer enrollment through third grade, in part to ease transitions to public school classrooms. Currently, the University Montessori School has a three-year wait list.

Michael Ruane
Michael Ruane, Executive Director of Children and Families  Commission of Orange County, rounded out the discussion of practice in early childhood and pre-school education by discussing the Commission’s Early Literacy Program. Funded by tobacco tax revenues, the Commission’s goal is to serve as the infrastructure and foundation for early literacy programs in Orange County, providing readers and volunteers to early literacy programs and offering an avenue for community involvement in early literacy. The Early Literacy Program’s mission is to ensure that every child has access to books in his or her home, provide literacy information to parents, and link families and community resources.  The Commission recruits and trains volunteers to read to children at pediatric clinics (part of the nationally-based Reach Out and Read Program) and to organize book drives, “cleaning and screening” of donated books, and fundraisers. Mr. Ruane shared that in 2008 the Commission recorded donations of 37,798 new and 11,643 used books, 80,093 children read to, 107 community events supported with books and literacy information, and training of 32 readers. As part of his presentation, Mr. Ruane identified three areas of contention in the field of early childhood that merit additional discussion:
  1.  Universal vs. targeted intervention.  Whether to support universal pre-school or target investments where there is the greatest need as demonstrated by achievement gaps. Although universal health care and early screening can identify developmental delays, there is no universal support for this service.
  2. Improving existing services through professional development vs. expanding services. Is it better to improve the quality of what exists or better to try to serve more children?
  3. Formal early childhood development programs (licensed, inspected) vs. family-based programs. Since childcare is a personal choice influenced by tradition, culture, and other considerations, should efforts focus on supporting family care and improving homecare services?  An example of a home-focused program is HABLA, which brings literacy into the child’s home.  KCET also broadcasts programs to improve home care.

In closing, Mr. Ruane encourage Leadership Council member to consider opportunities for early childhood development in conjunction with after-school programs. He pointed out that since Boys and Girls Clubs often are empty from 8:00 am until 3:00 pm when school-age children arrive, there are now accredited preschools operating at Boys and Girls Club facilities. As another potential resource, after-school program providers are being looked at to run early literacy programs. Mr. Ruane believes that organizations must take models, then look at the realities. For example, families and caregivers cannot be detached from the programs. He urged members to consider using as many community platforms as possible to address needs.


Carol Booth Olson Garners Prestigious Richard A. Meade Award
Senior Lecturer
Carol Booth Olson

Senior Lecturer Carol Booth Olson and her research colleague Robert Land, Associate Professor in the  Charter College of Education at California State University, Los Angeles, have received the 2009 Conference on English Education Richard A. Meade Award for Research in English Education for their article "A Cognitive Strategies Approach to Reading and Writing Instruction for English Language Learners in Secondary School."

The award is given in honor of the late Richard A. Meade of the University of Virginia for his contributions to research in the teaching of composition and in teacher preparation. Each year the award recognizes one outstanding piece of published research in either preservice or inservice education of English/language arts teacher development at any educational level, of any scope, and in any setting. Dr. Olson and Dr. Land will be honored at the National Council of Teachers of English convention in Philadelphia this fall. 

In addition to her research and teaching, Dr. Olson is Director of the UC Irvine Writing Project, now in its 32nd year of summer programs for classroom teachers and its 25th year of Summer Youth Programs. The UCI Writing Project is the 13th site of the California Writing Project; the oldest of the Subject Matter Projects on the University of California, Irvine campus; and the first California Writing Project site to introduce a summer youth program.


Ph.D. Students Pursue Summer Activities in Fields of Interest
Chin-Hsi Lin
LLT Specialization

Ph.D. student Chin-Hsi Lin presented workshops on "Chinese Instruction and Technology" in seven cities during the month of July. The workshops are part of this year's annual conference sponsored by the Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission in Taiwan and local Chinese teachers' associations to improve teaching skills. Approximately 100 teachers representing an average of 20 Chinese schools participate in each conference. This year conferences were held in Ontario, Canada; Brunswick; Detroit; Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Boston; and New York City. In September Mr. Lin will be entering his third year of doctoral study, specializing in Language, Literacy, and Technology.


Paul Rama
LLT Specialization

Ph.D. student Paul Rama is working with two SURF-IT (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship - Information Technology) Fellows on a video games and learning project. SURF-IT is a UC Irvine program that affords undergraduate students research experience. Throughout the 10-week program the SURF-IT Fellows engage in an array of activities designed to better understand how people learn while playing video games. Specific activities involve videotaping gaming sessions, interviewing participants, transcribing interviews, and coding video data. Over the course of the summer, Mr. Rama and his assistants have collected a large amount of data that will provide insight on video games and learning. 


Laurie Hansen
LLT Specialization

Ph.D. student Laurie Hansen presented a poster session at the National Science Foundation Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program Conference in Washington, DC on July 2, 2009. Her presentation expained that the Robert Noyce K-12 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Teaching Scholarship program at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) is one component of the UCI California Teach Science and Math Initiative (UCI Cal Teach), a comprehensive set of academic and support programs to attract and prepare STEM majors at a tier one research university for careers as math and science teachers. Targeted at undergraduates, the core components of this initiative are: a) introductory teaching career seminars and early field experience in K-12 math and science classrooms in high-need school districts; b) specialized undergraduate degree programs that offer a B.S. in a STEM discipline and a concentration in secondary education, which provides an early start toward satisfying some requirements of the post-baccalaureate teacher credential program; c) scholarships, paid work opportunities in math and science education settings, and other financial incentives to support aspiring math and science teachers; and d) dedicated UCI Cal Teach counselors to help STEM majors successfully negotiate the pathway to completing their bachelor's degree and teacher certification. Through this initiative, a greater number of aspiring math and science teachers have entered the UCI post-baccalaureate teacher credential program with solid preparation in their respective STEM disciplines and confidence in their career choice and in their commitment to serve the diverse student populations in California's high-need schools.


Erik Ruzek
EPSC Specialization

Ph.D. student Erik Ruzek is working with Professor George Farkas on the research grant: Preschool Program Impacts on School Readiness: Variation by Prior Child Language and Attention Skills, and the Quality of Infant/Toddler Care. The grant is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Mr. Ruzak is helping to analyze data to learn (1) whether the school readiness impacts of the type, quality, and quantity of preschool experiences vary by the level of cognitive/language and attention skills children exhibit when they begin preschool and (2) whether the achievement gap separating the children of low and high income families can be substantially reduced or eliminated by high quality preschool care alone or combined with high quality infant/toddler care.


Femi Vance
EPSC Specialization

Ph.D. student Femi Vance is working with Chair Deborah Lowe Vandell on a grant sponsored by the Tiger Woods Learning Center: Raising the Bar: Identifying Strategies to Increase Program Attendance. Ms. Vance is helping to analyze evaluation data as part of a follow-up study to provide information to TWLC for improving student attendance and participation in their programs. Ms. Vance's research interests include youth development program policy and out of school time (OST) professional development.



Melissa Courtney
LLT Specialization

Ph.D. student Melissa Courtney is working with Professor Mark Warschauer on a grant sponsored by St. Margaret's Episcopal School: Learning for the 21st Century. Ms. Courtney is analyzing data that will provide formative and summative feedback to St Margaret's as it carries out its goal of helping students to develop the understanding and learning skills that will allow the students to become important scientific, business, and civic leaders in the 21st century. Ms. Courtney's research interests include technology in the classroom, classroom culture, and student motivation.


Sonja Lind
LLT Specialization

Ph.D. student Sonja Lind is working with Professor Mark Warschauer on a grant funded by Cambridge University Press: Technology and English Language Learners. This international project is obtaining research data on the use of technology in English Language Teaching (ELT), such as how the technology is being used, how outside factors influence the use of technology, and teacher/student expectations for the role of technology in ELT. Ms. Lind's research interests include English language and international education equity, new literacies, service-learning, rhetoric, instructional technology, and online communities.


Irene Vega
EPSC Specialization
Nayssan Safavian
LCD Specialization

Ph.D. students Irene Vega and Nayssan Safavian are serving as Summer Graduate Mentors for  fellows of the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP). SURP offers undergraduates the opportunity to become immersed in a research topic for a full-time ten-week period (400 hours). SURP Fellows work under the guidance of faculty members and are mentored by graduate students. Fellows are selected based upon the intellectual merit of their research proposal and a commitment of support from a faculty member. They receive a $3000 stipend in support of their summer activities. DoE Professors George Farkas and Michael Martinez are serving as Faculty Mentors for the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program.

Ms. Vega also is working on the research grant: National Portrait of 16-20 Year Olds Who Are Not On-Track to Attain a Post-Secondary Education. Under the guidance of Assistant Professor Leticia Oseguera, in partnership with Assistant Professor Cynthia Feliciano from the UC Irvine School of Social Science, Ms. Vega is analyzing data collected from the US Census Bureau, Add Health and Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Survey to identify the most vulnerable in attaining a post-secondary education credential.

James Leak
EPSC Specialization
Wei-Lin Li
EPSC Specialization

Ph.D. students James Leak and We-Lin Li are working under the guidance of Distinguished Professor Greg Duncan on the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development-sponsored grant: National Forum on the Sciences of Early Childhood Program Evaluation. The objective of this research is to learn more about what early childhood programs work best and for whom. Mr. Leak and Ms. Li are participating in critical analysis of evaluation evidence on existing services as well as from other social programs.


Tran Dang
LCD Specialization
Briana Hinga
LCD Specialization
Lauren Shea
LLT Specialization

Ph.D. students Tran Dang, Briana Hinga, and Lauren Shea attended the PreK-3rd Data Resource Center-sponsored workshop: Longitudinal Exporations of Child Outcomes and Well Being in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The workshop was part of the 2009 Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) Summer Program in Quantitative Methods of Social Science Research at the University of Michigan. Ms. Shea also has been engaged in summer workshops and research with the UC Irvine Center for Educational Partnership (CFEP) SMILE (Science and Math Impacting Learners of English) project, while Ms. Dang is working on proposal development with Assistant Professor AnneMarie Conley.

Adam Sheppard
EPSC Specialization
Maria Parente
EPSC Specialization

Ph.D. students Adam Sheppard, Maria Parente, and Briana Hinga (pictured above) have spent their summer working on the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development-funded grant: Consequences of Summertime for Adolescent Development. Associate Professor Joseph Mahoney, PI for the grant, is guiding their research into how youth spend the summer months and the possible impact of this time use on adolescents’ academic, social, and physical development during the school year. Findings from this study are expected to begin to fill the knowledge gap in these areas and specify the risks and opportunities of summertime for adolescent development.


Ph.D. Students Join Newly-Formed Social Inequality and Education (SIE) Research Group

Eight Ph.D. students have joined the Social Inequality and Education (SIE) Research Group. SIE participants are meeting weekly throughout the summer to critically examine the role of education in U.S. society. Students Femi Vance and Briana Hinga (both pictured above) are working with Assistant Professor Estela Zarate and Dr. Claudia Pineda on the Promising After-School Study.  Alejandra Albarran, Andrea Cons, Tina Matuchniak, and  Sonja Lind (pictured above) are working with Associate Professor Gilberto Conchas and Assistant Professor Leticia Oseguera on the Beyond Family and Culture Study. Dr. Conchas and Dr.  Oseguera also are guiding Edelina Burciaga and Irene Vega (pictured above) on the case study entitled Black and Latino High School Boys. Two additional students, UCI/UCLA Ed.D. dissertator Diane Araujo and Master’s student Angelica Cortez have joined this third case study. 

The SIE Research Group is exploring how demographic, economic, historical, political, and social forces impact race and ethnic populations with respect to their school engagement and achievement. Particular emphasis is being placed on understanding how Asian American, African American, Chicano/Latino, and white students make meaning of their educational plight in distinct school and community contexts. The experiences of these groups in schooling and their attempts to gain social mobility are being critically assessed to understand how structures of domination and subordination are reproduced and resisted through the “cultural practices” of distinct student populations. Special attention is being given to the transformative practices that enable students to dismantle inequality and struggle for a more democratic society. 

By the end of the summer, each case study team will be submitting drafts of articles to be submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals.

Alejandra Albarran
LCD Specialization
Andrea Cons
Tina Matuchniak
LLT Specialization
Edelina Burciaga
EPSC Specialization