An Institute in High Gear: Research and Service, with Local and Global Reach

Posted on February 16, 2014 in AP-TIP IN, CREO, Educational Policy, Institute People, On-campus Events, STEM Disciplines by Bill Schmitt

The Institute for Educational Initiatives, with its several units dedicated to research and action in service to America’s children and schools, is capturing lots of attention recently. The synergistic and interdisciplinary achievements of individual scholars and the aspirations of students and families around the nation and locally are all playing a part in the zeal for educational excellence among Institute faculty fellows.

Fighting for Equal Education: Nicole McNeil, the Institute, and ACE

Especially for fans of Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish football,  one high-profile mention of the Institute’s research work—and its synergies with the Alliance for Catholic Education benefiting disadvantaged students in under-resourced schools, was the NBC TV spot, “Fighting for Equal Education.” This story of IEI fellow Nicole McNeil’s research on early math education was aired on TV just as the Notre Dame “Fighting for Our Children’s Future” National Bus Tour was beginning its visits to Catholic schools in 50 cities across the nation, promoting the cause of educational excellence for children from all backgrounds.

CREO Research on Teacher Evaluations and a Growing AERA Role

Mark Berends, the distinguished sociologist who directs Notre Dame’s Center for Research on Educational Opportunity (CREO) has received the prestigious title of AERA Fellow by the American Educational Research Asssociation

Meanwhile, a research term led by CREO has produced a new study adding insights to the use of student-learning data in teacher evaluation.

Notre Dame Center for STEM Education

This new center within the Institute for Educational Initiatives, directed by Matt Kloser, has received a grant from the Spencer Foundation. The grant will allow the Center to study how indicators of student learning can help middle school science teachers improve their pedagogical practices. This exciting news has drawn the attention of the daily news summary from the online STEM Connectior service.

Another once of the Center’s activities has been working with dioceses to help Catholic schools take a more focused approach to science and math education, and this initiative already has received news coverage in the Diocese of Palm Beach.

Stay tuned for the Center for STEM Education to be continuing and expanding its collaborations with academicians and education practitioners locally and around the country. They are co-sponsoring a STEM Forum at Notre Dame on March 1.

Teaching Exceptional Children

James Frabutt, a respected education researcher and faculty member in ACE’s Remick Leadership Program, is director of the ACE inclusionary skills program for teachers, called Teaching Exceptional Children (TEC). This month, he was a guest speaker at the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) Teaching Exceptional Learners Conference.  His expertise in the field of embodying holistic and inclusionary attentiveness in Catholic education is reflected in his recently published book, Beyond Academics: Supporting the Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Health of Students in Catholic Schools.

Frabutt has also co-authored numerous books and journal articles, and Education Week recently noted his piece in the journal Catholic Education that constitutes the first national map of Catholic pre-K program.

He has also taken on leadership of the University of Notre Dame’s academic-community engagement initiative. As director of this initiative, Frabutt is facilitating and promoting the connection between Notre Dame faculty research projects and community, social, economic, and cultural development among off-campus individuals and groups.

Engaging Youth, Engaging Neighborhoods

One such faculty-community connection involving Institute for Educational Initiatives fellows and others who care deeply about children and learning is the Engaging Youth, Engaging Neighborhoods initiative. Through cooperation with leaders of community engagement working through Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns, faculty members are able to achieve what Frabutt calls a “multiplier effect” where research into the successes for young South Bend residents can spread the word and help make similar initiatives possible around the country.

Three Notre Dame educators became particularly involved: Maria McKenna, senior associate director of the Education, Schooling, and Society (ESS) academic minor housed within the Institute for Educational Initiatives; Stuart Greene, the founding director of the ESS who teaches in the departments of Africana Studies and English; and Kevin Burke, assistant professional specialist with the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE). ACE’s many activities are housed within the Institute.

Brazilian Teachers, Notre Dame, and South Bend Schools

A unique and multi-faceted connection between Notre Dame faculty and the South Bend community has reached deeply into local education through teaching partnerships in local public school classrooms, even as it has reached internationally to help Brazilian educators improve their skills in teaching English as a New Language. This winter, the Institute for Educational Initiatives has hosted 30 teachers from Brazil, advancing their pedagogical skills through intensive workshops, wide-ranging experiences of American culture, and direct contact with South Bend teachers and students.

One of the teachers from Brazil was interviewed on a local PBS TV program in early February, along with the ACE graduate who was serving as a “language coach” assisting in her adjustment to an array of United States cultural experiences—not to mention everyone’s adjustment to recent winter weather experiences.

AP-TIP IN Reaches Out to Public High School Students Across Indiana

High school students and their teachers are receiving a powerful boost in their aspirations for college and career success in the STEM disciplines through the Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program for Indiana (AP-TIP IN), administered for a growing number of Indiana public schools through the Institute for Educational Initiatives.

The latest example of success in this statewide campaign representing Notre Dame’s commitment to the future of schools and education occurred on Saturday, Jan. 25, when about 700 high school students converged on an Indianapolis-area high school to deepen their preparation for their College Board Advanced Placement ® courses and tests in English, Science, and Mathematics, with leadership from participating local high school teachers and the AP-TIP IN administrative team at the Institute.

Education Research Spreads University’s Impact to South Bend & Beyond

Posted on December 1, 2013 in Educational Policy, Institute People, On-campus Events by Bill Schmitt

Old notions about the work of Universities–and of the undergraduates and faculty on those campuses–tend to see local-community service and academic research as two very separate things. The Institute for Educational Initiatives is among the groups on campus where the dividing line has faded. Indeed Dr. James Frabutt, an Institute faculty fellow who is known for both his research and his commitment to service to young people, is happy to be pointing out this positive trend from his new vantage point. He is Notre Dame’s first director of academic-community engagement.

A recent story whose details have appeared on a few University websites, including the ND Newswire at, has an extra dimension that includes the Institute for Educational Initiatives and an extra reason to be excited about the potential of cooperative service projects involving Notre Dame faculty and students, alongside residents of local communities in the South Bend area.

That extra reason goes to the heart of Notre Dame’s accelerating push into interdisciplinary research that can help address human needs at the local, national, and international levels. In this case, the research is inseparable from cooperation with the three-year-old neighborhood development project called Engaging Youth, Engaging Neighborhood.

You’ll enjoy reading the story (linked above) that introduces the three scholars–all of them with an abiding interest in the intersection of community service, K-12 education, and the generation of new knowledge–who became involved in the EYEN endeavor, with help from the Center for Social Concerns’ Naomi Penney and others.

But Jim Frabutt–and many others who see N0tre Dame’s mission as multifaceted and attuned to both local and global reach–would appreciate your reading the follow-up story now posted at the Institute’s news site. It reminds us that research, typically taking the form of undergraduates’ independent inquiries in the community, as well as faculty members’ peer-reviewed journal articles, book ideas, and teaching in interdisciplinary programs like the IEI’s Education, Schooling, and Society academic minor, has a multiplier effect on- and off-campus. In this case, educators will be able to take the successful grass-roots ideas from South Bend and carry them to other academics, communities, and children.

There’s nothing stodgy about research or researchers when today’s classroom is the world and today’s world is a classroom, when faculty and students alike are engaged in teaching and learning and excited about sharing and spreading new pathways for solving problems in every community. Thanks and congratulations to everyone who helped to introduce this initiative in Notre Dame’s own neighborhood.

ND Voices Engaged in 2 National Outreaches on STEM

Posted on September 1, 2013 in AP-TIP IN, STEM Disciplines by Bill Schmitt

Two new links will demonstrate how the Institute for Educational Initiatives is bringing an innovative Notre Dame presence among national enterprises advancing teaching and learning in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

Prof. Matthew Kloser, an Institute faculty fellow and director of the recently established Notre Dame Center for STEM Education, outlined his center’s plans in a recent webinar hosted by STEMconnector for hundreds of leaders in the STEM field. Click on the first video you’ll see at The presentation by Kloser is toward the middle of the archived webinar.

Kloser holds a Ph.D. in science education from Stanford University. His passion for improved learning of STEM disciplines at the elementary and secondary school levels dates back to his participation in the Alliance for Catholic Education as a Catholic school teacher in 2002-2004. He earned a M. Ed. degree through that curriculum. Kloser is a many-faceted resource for ACE and Institute units working in the area of STEM education.

Karen Morris, who has served Notre Dame, the Institute, and ACE as an expert in science schooling since 1987, reports that the Institute’s Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program for Indiana (AP-TIP IN) initiative, for which she is program director, shares in great news announced recently about high school teaching and learning in the STEM disciplines.

The National Math and Science Initiative, which has provided grant funding for AP-TIP IN and similar programs in other states, announced that, for the fifth year in review, students participating in its program performed better than their non-participating peers in College Board Advanced Placement (R) tests in science, math, and English. This was the first year in which results from Indiana’s new program, administered statewide by the Institute, were counted. See the multi-state announcement.

Stay tuned for the upcoming announcement of robust results showing Indiana students’ clearly increased readiness for college studies and careers involving the STEM disciplines.

And stay tuned to the Institute’s website for more detailed information about the Notre Dame Center for STEM Education.

Combining Research & Instruction: Instructive Subject for Research

Posted on July 31, 2013 in Institute People, STEM Disciplines by Bill Schmitt

Matt Kloser, director of the Notre Dame Center for STEM Education within the Institute for Educational Initiatives, received kudos recently when the online Stanford Teaching Commons posted a story about the integration of research and teaching.   The story cited his role in research that found real value in such integration.

Kloser, who was a doctoral candidate in Science Education at Stanford at the time, teamed with another doctoral candidate and two faculty members to study how an effort to integrate “inquiry-based instruction” into a professor’s course might stimulate student learning. Kloser, now serving Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education as a faculty fellow in the Institute, leads research and collaborations to increase interest among K-12 students in the STEM disciplines.

The Stanford story looks back several years to the research project built around Prof. Tadashi Fukami’s biology laboratory class.  He involved one group of his students in field work to gather data about microbial pollination, his own field of research. The rest of his students followed a more conventional syllabus for the course. Kloser and doctoral candidate Sara Brownell, under the guidance of Rich Shavelson, Professor Emeritus in Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, assessed the outcomes for the students who had become more engaged in the professor’s inquiries, compared with outcomes for the control group.

As the story reveals, Kloser and Brownell provided insights that led Fukami later to include his whole class in the higher level of research engagement. Kloser’s study found that “students in the research-based lab had a more positive attitude toward authentic research, higher self-confidence in lab-related tasks, and increased interest in pursuing future research” compared with students in the more conventional lab course.


Character-Building in School Athletics…A Conference

Posted on June 20, 2013 in On-campus Events by Bill Schmitt

Summer starts on June 21, and the busy summer calendar of on-campus conferences hosted by the Alliance for Catholic Education will be under way, too.

Play Like a Champion Today (R), which is a unit of ACE and of the Institute for Educational Initiatives, is hosting its annual Sports Leadership Conference June 21-23 at the Jordan Hall of Science. Leaders of student athletic organizations will come from around the country to talk about the goals they share with Play Like a Champion Today leaders Clark Power and Kristin Sheehan.

A prime goal is to seize the opportunities for character education that exist in school athletics programs for youths and high school students. Clark and Kristin, along with impressive colleagues like Lynn Kachmarik and partners around the country (in the world of public schools as well as the world of faith-based schools), know the value–and values–they can bring to young people in a well-coached athletic environment.

More than a hundred conference attendees will be hearing from experts in the fields of medicine, law, and computer science, as well as athletics.

No Summer Vacation for AP-TIP IN

Posted on June 6, 2013 in AP-TIP IN, STEM Disciplines by Bill Schmitt

Thanks to the Elkhart Truth’s excellent online local-education site for posting the Institute’s recent announcement about an AP-TIP IN opportunity for many teachers in Michiana. The hard-working team of administrators working with the Institute’s Karen Morris is helping to offer a summertime conference in Elkhart that will help teachers get ready to teach Advanced Placement (R) courses in the future, particularly courses in the STEM disciplines. The program is a win-win for students and teachers alike in a growing number of public high schools around the state–and no fewer than three high schools in the Elkhart area. It would be great if there were even more ways to reach out to the local educator community in Michiana with news like this.

Institute’s Involvement in STEM for High Schools Excites Business Audiences

Posted on May 14, 2013 in AP-TIP IN, STEM Disciplines by Bill Schmitt

The Indiana-wide program that boosts STEM college- and career-readiness for public high schoolers–a program administered by the Institute for Educational Initiatives–has announced big plans for its second year of operation. On top of the nine high schools that participated in the first year of this Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program for Indiana (AP-TIP IN), eleven more high schools were selected to join in the effort in 2013-2014.

This growth, combined with the nice fit AP-TIP IN enjoys with the Indiana Department of Education and the funding partner, the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI, pronounced Nimzy), was celebrated at an event in the Indianapolis State House on April 23. Glenda Ritz, Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, was among the participants in the ceremony. You can read all about the program’s purpose and plans at the IEI website.

One of the most noteworthy aspects of this effort, which powerfully reflects Notre Dame’s commitment to advance the future of children and schools, is the way the business sector is embracing this program. I’ve found the media people most excited about this effort to encourage high schoolers as learners of science and math (and the study of English is also involved) are the people in the business media. In particular, Inside Indiana Business, serving corporate-world readers throughout the state, has responded well to our announcements right from the start.

Recently, they featured the AP-TIP IN program on their hour-long TV show, broadcast on PBS stations. Click on the link, then click on the icon with the caption “College Readiness,” to see the five-minute segment from a recent program. NMSI is a nationwide initiative largely supported by companies who know they need employees well-skilled in math and the sciences. This need for such employees, and the corresponding hope for students graduating into the workforce with STEM knowhow, deserves greater awareness and more action among parents of high schoolers…and among many other stakeholders. They all can find out more about Notre Dame’s role at the AP-TIP IN web pages.


A Global Scholarly Network: CREO at Work

Posted on April 8, 2013 in CREO by Bill Schmitt

The World Education Research Association (WERA) has designated the Center for Research on Educational Opportunity (CREO) in the Institute for Educational Initiatives as a center of expertise with a new global role.

CREO will be one of WERA’s “international research networks,” tasked with helping to build an “international research network” (IRN) focused on sociological research about educational inequality.

Even at this early stage, CREO is reaching out beyond its own distinguished work. CREO director Mark Berends is pursuing the IRN aspirations not only with assistant director Bill Carbonaro, but with Heather Price, assistant director of another outstanding center of expertise at Notre Dame, the Center for the Study of Religion and Society.

Tribute to Maureen Hallinan: Retired Scholar, Enduring Inspiration

Posted on April 2, 2013 in Institute People by Bill Schmitt

Thanks to Notre Dame’s Department of Sociology for posting a great story honoring Maureen Hallinan, a distinguished sociologist of education who also was the founding director of the Institute for Educational Initiatives. Read the story to enjoy insights from her Notre Dame colleagues about how she has offered leadership and inspiration during a career of outstanding scholarship.

Panel Explores Problem of Bullying in Schools

Posted on March 25, 2013 in Educational Policy, Uncategorized by Bill Schmitt

Bullying in schools is a complex problem that can be solved, according to the comments of Notre Dame faculty members, South Bend community members, and other interested parties during a panel discussion following a March 23 screening of the documentary film, “Bully.”

The film, which has become the centerpiece of a nationwide anti-bullying effort called the Bully Project, traces the stories of young people who experienced that pattern of behavior and the profound impacts, including the tragedy of suicide, that followed.


As part of an extended exploration of the bullying problem, the Browning Cinema at Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center hosted the panel discussion led by Clark Power, a psychology professor and Institute for Educational Initiatives faculty fellow who directs the Play Like a Champion Today ® character formation program in the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE).

“We tend to blame the victims,” Power said, adding that the solution is broader and deeper than somehow “fixing” a single problem with the victim—or the bully. The solution has been known for years, but it entails systemic, community-wide change, he said, expressing hope that those in the movie theater “can be the change this [film] is talking about.”

See the whole story at the Institute’s website, and learn more about Play Like a Champion Today.