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Media advisory: Experts available to comment on back-to-school news from numerous educational aspects

Monday, August 08, 2016

LAWRENCE — With the arrival of August comes the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year. Students across the country will return to classrooms this month and next while others begin new phases in their educational careers, be it the first day of high school or the start of college. Teachers, administrators and families play a big role in the new year as well. Researchers and experts at the University of Kansas are available to discuss education from a wide variety of perspectives. Whether it is effective teaching practices, the importance of supporting students with disabilities, student debt, why some students struggle with math or why the school year starts when it does, KU experts can offer insight on numerous educational topics. Below is a listing of KU experts and the topics they can discuss. To schedule an interview, contact Mike Krings at 785-864-8860 or mkrings@ku.edu

Autism, education and equal representation Jason Travers, assistant professor of special education, can discuss autism, evidence-based practices for students with autism and the importance of accurate and representational diagnoses, early intervention, autism awareness and related topics. A former public school special education teacher, Travers conducts research in autism, specifically on the effects of shared surface technology on academic, communicative and social-behavioral skills of learners with autism. He has also led studies showing that, although all states showed an increase in the number of students with autism from 2000 to 2007, black and Hispanic children were significantly underrepresented. Travers has supported special and general education teachers, related service providers, school administrators and parents to meet the education and behavior support needs of students with disabilities.

Increasing opportunities for students with disabilities Karrie Shogren and Michael Wehmeyer can discuss the importance of supporting and improving educational and life outcomes for students with disabilities. Wehmeyer, professor of special education and director of KU’s Beach Center on Disability and co-director of the Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities, both within the Schiefelbusch Institute for Lifespan Studies; and Shogren, professor of special education and co-director of the KUCDD, can discuss self-determination, supporting students in setting goals for their education, careers and lives as well as related topics.

The researchers have published numerous studies and articles showing that students with disabilities who take part in setting goals for their education and life after school have greater educational outcomes and are more successful in gaining competitive employment than their peers who do not. They have also developed numerous interventions and evidence-based practices for educators to help individuals implement self-determination and trained educators who work with students with disabilities.

History of education, inequality John Rury, professor of educational leadership and policy studies, and by courtesy, history, can discuss topics surrounding the history of education including why the school year begins and end when it does and how educational inequality persists. The concept of “separate but equal” schooling was struck down more than 60 years ago, but inequality in education persists. Rury can discuss formation of the school year, the achievement gap between black and white students, the historical periods in which black students made their greatest gains in access to education and educational inequality of today. His research has explored educational policy studies, how they relate to educational inequality, especially regarding urban schools and has published numerous books and academic articles on the subject.

Math, motivation and helping students who struggle Michael Orosco, associate professor of special education, can discuss mathematics, students who struggle with the subject, helping culturally diverse student populations improve in the subject and related topics. Orosco has published research on students who experience “math demotivation,” how educators can quickly identify such students and help them before they are labeled with a disability, as well as how educators can implement practices to help diverse student populations improve their word problem-solving skills by improving their reading and understanding of mathematics concepts and questions.

Diversity in higher education Gene T. Parker III, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies, can discuss the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education. He has conducted research in the effect of collegiate experiences on student outcomes, student experiences with diversity and organizational and instructional theories, governance and leadership structures. On the latter topic, he has conducted research in diversity offices in higher education, how they are founded, how they operate, how they fit in the leadership structure of an institution, the role they play in student experience and related topics.

Paying for college and student debt Melinda Lewis, associate professor of social welfare and assistant director of the Center on Assets, Education and Inclusion in KU’s School of Social Welfare, can discuss student debt, paying for college, the importance of assets and savings in helping students reach college and pay for it, as well as how college debt prevents some students from access to higher education and puts others at a disadvantage when they start their professional lives. Her research has shown that students with savings are more likely to reach college than those who don’t, and she recently co-authored “The Real College Debt Crisis: How Student Borrowing Threatens Financial Well-Being and Erodes the American Dream” with William Elliott III, associate professor of social welfare and director of the Center on Assets, Education and Inclusion. The book details their different experiences in paying for college and argues the time has come for a revolution in how we think about paying for higher education.

Testing and assessment Neal Kingston, professor of educational psychology and director of the Achievement and Access Institute at KU, can discuss testing, classroom assessment, standardized testing and the best ways to gauge what students have learned as well as cheating and academic dishonesty. An expert in large-scale assessment and how it can best support student learning and a former classroom teacher, he has published more than 100 articles, papers and book chapters. He has also led numerous projects and advised states on developing better testing and assessment systems. His work has been cited in relation to No Child Left Behind and potential changes to the legislation as well as in matters of cheating in widely used assessments, including the SATs.

The school day outside of the classroom Suzanne Rice, professor of educational leadership and policy studies, can discuss the parts of the school day outside of the classroom that contribute to a student’s education. Rice has studied non-classroom experiences such as school lunches, experience between classes, extracurricular activities and other parts of the school day. Her research examines educational phenomena as well as ethics and moral theory in education, and she recently published a book examining the various ways animals have been used in education, from characters in children’s books to how human interactions with animals can inform values and how children learn.

Social studies and online engagement Joe O’Brien, associate professor of curriculum and teaching, can discuss social studies and innovative ways teachers can get students engaged in the subject matter. Focusing largely on middle school social studies education, O’Brien’s research has shown that linking students via social media can not only increase students’ engagement in social studies discussions but improve the quality of their contributions over the course of a school year while prompting them to consider questions of policy, ethics and provocative topics. He has also advised student groups that have created and delivered original social studies classroom materials to social studies teachers.

Using technology to reach every student James Basham, associate professor of education, can discuss technology in the classroom and how it can be used to personalize education for every student, creating plans that help students capitalize on their strengths, set and achieve goals and improve educational achievement. Basham served on the technical work group that developed the 2016 National Educational Technology Plan and was recently one of the lead authors of “Equity Matters: Digital and Online Learning for Students with Disabilities.” The report analyzed the online education policies of all 50 states and five U.S. territories and made recommendations on how to improve online and blended learning for all students. He can discuss that report, work at the federally funded national Center on Online Learning and Students with Disabilities and the increasing role of online education in the United States and how it works — and in some cases doesn’t work — for students with disabilities. Basham can also discuss supporting the implementation of Universal Design for Learning. According to the newly passed Every Student Succeeds Act, UDL serves as the foundation for learning environment design, instruction and technology use.

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