Our Faculty

Woulfin on Coaching for Coherence

Congratulations to Dr. Sarah Woulfin on a recent publication in EducatioDr. Sarah Woulfin, headshotnal Researcher titled “Coaching for Coherence: How Instructional Coaches Lead Change in the Evaluation Era“.  The abstract describes:

Instructional coaching has emerged as a prevalent and much-lauded instrument for capacity building. This essay argues that coaching can be aligned with teacher evaluation systems to work toward the effective implementation of instructional reforms, including Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. Within the current policy context, coaching can support reform by (a) developing shared understandings, (b) modeling practices, and (c) brokering ideas. We discuss examples of coaches’ leadership actions related to the evaluation process, thus illustrating the potential for coaching to promote coherence in instructional improvement. We conclude by discussing barriers to the enactment of reform-aligned coaching as well as implications for leaders positioned at multiple levels of the education system.  For the full article, please visit the Educational Researcher.

Higher Education and Student Affairs Names New Program Director

The Neag School’s Department of Educational Leadership welcomes Kari B. Taylor as the new program director for Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA). She begins her new appointment as the HESA program director and as an assistant professor-in-residence on July 31.

Kari B. Taylor joins the Neag School as the Higher Education and Student Affairs program director.
Kari B. Taylor joins the Neag School as the Higher Education and Student Affairs program director. (Photo Credit: Shawn Kornegay/Neag School)

Taylor joins the Neag School after most recently having earned her Ph.D. in higher education and student affairs at The Ohio State University (OSU), where she conducted research into the process of developmental growth among undergraduate and graduate students who participated in an international service-learning experience. Her dissertation focused on how a service-learning course helped students develop critical consciousness, which represents a complex way of making meaning of one’s self in relation to one’s social world. In her third year as a doctoral student, she received the Porterfield-Dickens Graduate Research Support Award in support of her dissertation research.

Rising Up the Ranks

Taylor’s interest in the learning and development of students in higher education was ignited during her second year as an undergraduate at the University of Missouri, where she served as a peer advisor for the Freshman Interest Groups, an immersive living-learning experience that creates cohesive communities where students study, take classes, and live together. At the time, Taylor, who majored in journalism and biological sciences, was also working for a local newspaper. While she enjoyed her work as a reporter, she says she always found herself eager to return to her advisees at the end of the day, ultimately prompting her to pursue graduate study in the realm of higher education and student affairs.

“[Kari] deeply cares about students and their development, which will make a meaningful contribution to the experience that our students have here.”

— Milagros Castillo-Montoya, assistant professor and former interim HESA director

Going on to complete a master’s of science degree in college student personnel at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in 2006, Taylor began serving as assistant director for academic and co-curricular support at Miami University’s Honors and Academic Scholars programs. In this position, Taylor provided holistic advising for a large group of high-ability students; developed academic, social, and community service student programming; worked with the university’s Office of Residence Life to oversee the Honors Living Learning Community; and assisted in recruiting, training, and supervising instructors for the introductory honors seminar.

By 2011, she had been promoted to senior associate director, developing and supervising academic support policies and procedures for the university’s Honors Plan for Liberal Education, which allows honors students to meet general education requirements through an outcomes-based framework. She also supervised assistant directors; facilitated ongoing refinement of the program’s electronic portfolio process; and implemented training modules for academic advisors as chair of the professional development subcommittee of Miami’s Undergraduate Academic Advising Council.

It was this commitment to student learning and development that led Taylor to her Ph.D. program at OSU. Describing her work as “bringing passion to practice,” Taylor says she looks forward to being a heavily involved leader and mentor for the HESA program.

“I was drawn to the program at UConn because of the sense of community and the opportunity to work specifically with master’s students,” says Taylor, a native of Topeka, Kan. “I was very interested in the system of graduate assistantships and practicums that HESA offers, and am excited to assist graduate students in their development as educational leaders.”

Practitioner and Scholar

“We are excited to welcome Kari Taylor to the HESA program and to the department. She brings a blend of practitioner and scholarly experience with her, as well as a focus on issues of equity that will be a great fit,” says Jennifer McGarry, professor and head of the Department of Educational Leadership.

Taylor succeeds Neag School assistant professor Milagros Castillo-Montoya, who served as HESA’s interim director this past year.

“Kari brings expertise and experience that will be a strong value to the program,” says Castillo-Montoya. “She also deeply cares about students and their development, which will make a meaningful contribution to the experience that our students have here and the strong reputation we have as a program for supporting the development of higher education and student affairs administrators.”

Free Admissions Tests Help More Poor Students Go to College

Editor’s Note: This story, authored by Loretta Waldman, originally appeared on UConn Today, the University of Connecticut’s news website and again on the Neag School of Education's website.

Closing the college attainment gap among minority and low-income students has been a longstanding challenge for education policy makers. Recently published research out of UConn suggests that a simple, low-cost intervention may offer an effective solution.

The study by Joshua Hyman, an assistant professor of public policy and educational leadership at UConn, looks at a policy in Michigan requiring 11th grade students to take the ACT and compares the change in the rate of students going to college before and after implementation of the policy. The findings, published in the summer 2017 issue of the journal Education Finance and Policy, show a one percentage point bump in four-year college enrollment among poor students.

The increase may not seem all that dramatic, but relative to other educational interventions, this policy is inexpensive and easy to implement on a large scale, Hyman writes. At the time of the study, 11 states had incorporated the ACT or SAT into their 11th grade statewide assessment.  All 11 states require students to take the exams and and pay for them at a cost of $32 to $50 per student.

“Sometimes minor, cheap policies can have a small impact, and if you stack enough of them up, they can make a big difference.”

— Joshua Hyman, Assistant Professor

Joshua Hyman
Joshua Hyman

“This is a policy that is not super flashy, but sometimes minor, cheap policies can have a small impact, and if you stack enough of them up, they can make a big difference,” he says.

Hyman analyzed data on 11th-graders taking the college entrance exam from 2003 to 2008. He looks at demographic data such as sex, race, and date of birth, as well as socioeconomic factors such as free and reduced-price lunch status, limited English proficiency, special education status, and the student’s home address. The data also included eighth and 11th grade state assessment results and college enrollment information.

By comparing the data before and after 2007, when Michigan implemented the policy, he says he was able to figure out how many students, particularly low-income students, aren’t taking the ACT or SAT, and to predict who  would score well and be eligible to go to a four-year college if they did take it. His findings show that for every 10 poor students who took a college entrance exam before they were mandatory, there were an additional five students who didn’t take the test but who would score well enough to get into college if they did.

“This policy in a sense increased the supply of poor students who are taking these college entrance exams and scoring well by 50 percent,” he says. “I found that to be a pretty surprising result – that there are a lot of disadvantaged students out there who would do well on these tests but just aren’t taking them. “

Hyman further examined the effects of mandating and paying for the ACT by comparing before and after trends among students attending high schools used as test centers to those attending non-test center schools. Just the fact that some students have to drive to another school to take the test may lead to some of them not taking it. Non-test center schools tend to have lower test-taking rates and would show a bigger jump in college enrollment, he reasoned. Indeed, the study findings bore his theory out, showing a 0.6 point increase in college enrollment. The effect was even larger among boys, 0.9 points; poor students, 1.0 point; and students in the poorest high schools, 1.3 points.

The study also found that the students compelled to take the ACT tend to stay in college. Hyman was able to follow all six groups of students through their second year of college and found that the majority of them did not drop out, a key concern with policies such as a mandatory ACT.

“I think the paper has some really uncontroversial, easy, helpful policy implications,” he says. “At $34 a student or so, this policy is quite cheap. It is really hard to move the needle statewide on the rate of students going to college or the rate of low income students going to college. If this policy moves the needle by just a little bit, that’s helpful and that’s important.”

Still, the mandatory ACT is far from a cure-all, he notes. The results suggest that requiring all students to take a college entrance exam increases the supply of poor students scoring at a college-ready level by nearly 50 percent. Yet the policy increases the number of poor students enrolling at a four-year institution by only six percent.

“In spite of the policy, there remains a large supply of disadvantaged students who are high-achieving and not on a path to enrolling at a four-year college,” he writes. “Researchers and policy makers are still faced with the important question of which policies can further stem the tide of rising inequality in educational attainment.”

Access the story as it originally appeared on UConn Today.