University of Oregon


Graduate Employee Josh Kahn Receives Betty Foster McCue Scholarship

April 2017

BRT Graduate Employee Josh Kahn was recently awarded a Betty Foster McCue Scholarship by the University of Oregon Graduate School. This award recognizes doctoral candidates in the final year of their doctoral programs whose dissertations focus on topics related to human development and performance.

Josh’s dissertation focuses on the development and validation of a measure of Administrative Decision-Making in Student Discipline (ADMin-SD). Previous research has demonstrated that students are not disciplined equitably, with Black students facing harsher consequences for similar infractions compared to their White counterparts. Currently, no measures exists to evaluate whether training programs or interventions can improve administrators’ decision-making skills related to student discipline. ADMin-SD, a test of an administrator’s ability to make effective, efficient, and equitable decisions in student discipline situations, can be used by both practitioners (e.g., district administrators’ evaluation of principals’ need for further professional development) and researchers (e.g., to study how and why principals make decisions in student discipline situations). ADMin-SD will allow the field to begin developing and testing interventions with the ultimate goal of helping improve administrators’ decision-making skills.

Josh began his doctoral studies at the University of Oregon in the fall of 2011 and is currently finishing his second year as a graduate employee at BRT, where he has been an integral part of Dr. Joseph F. T. Nese’s Project CORE, Computerized Oral Reading Fluency Evaluation, a four-year research project funded by the Institute of Education Sciences (R305A140203). Josh’s work on Project CORE has included coordinating data collection efforts in the schools as well as managing and analyzing project data and assisting in dissemination of results.

Prior to joining BRT, Josh worked as a middle school English teacher and a special education teacher at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. He has experience working with students with both high- and low-incidence disabilities. He received his M.S.Ed in Elementary Education from Mercy College as part of his participation in the New York City Teaching Fellows, where he taught special education in the Bronx, NY. 
Josh’s primary research interests include: 
     1. teacher instructional decision-making,          
     2. applying insights from cognitive psychology to administrative decision-making, and
     3. leveraging various problem-solving models.

Josh expects to defend his dissertation by winter of 2018 and will begin teaching as an adjunct member of the Moravian College faculty in Pennsylvania in the fall.

Congratulations on a well-deserved award, Josh!

There’s a New Doctor in the House

March 2, 2017

BRT would like to congratulate Dan Farley on successfully defending his dissertation and earning his Ph.D. on March 2, 2017. Dr. Farley has worked closely with BRT since 2011, when he was hired to manage our work related to the Oregon Extended Assessment for the Oregon Department of Education.

Dr. Farley’s dissertation aligns closely with his previously published articles, among them a 2016 manuscript published in Exceptional Children and another 2016 article in Journal of Special Education, both of which examine the relationship between assessments and students with significant disabilities.

In his dissertation, Dr. Farley addressed a need identified by statewide accountability programs for modeling growth for students with significant cognitive disabilities (SWSCD) who take alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards (AA-AAS), an approach that has been widely adopted for use with students taking general assessments. He used latent growth curve modeling to define growth estimates based on exceptionality, sex, race, and economic disadvantage, and then unconditional latent class growth analysis (LCGA) to determine the number of homogeneous subgroups that existed within the heterogeneous population of SWSCD for subsequent growth mixture modeling (GMM). Dr. Farley used unconditional GMM to define the number of homogeneous subgroups of students with similar intercept and growth patterns within the overall population of SWSCD, and then discriminant function analysis (DFA) including student exceptionality, sex, race, and economic disadvantage status to analyze class membership post hoc.

In his work, Dr. Farley notes that researchers have elaborated a number of challenges in modeling growth for students taking an AA-AAS, including test scaling, group heterogeneity, small sample sizes, missing data, and the use of status-based assessments that were not designed to measure a developmental continuum. His study addressed these challenges, but did not fully eliminate or solve them.

Dr. Farley found that SWSCD with different exceptionalities generally had significantly different average initial achievement but growth rates that did not differ significantly from each other. SWSCD classified as economically disadvantaged performed significantly lower than their peers in initial achievement, yet exhibited growth rates that were not statistically different than the reference group. In his study, he also found evidence for two separate latent classes of students with exceptionalities on the Oregon AA-AAS. The first class had lower achievement and larger growth rates, while the second class had higher achievement and slower growth rates. Students identified as SLD and CD were generally higher-performing, while students identified as ID, ASD, and OI were lower performing across all analytic models. 

Dr. Farley will continue his work on the Oregon Extended Assessment as well as taking on additional project responsibilities within Behavioral Research and Teaching.

29547736574_3bb70a34ae_z-1BRT Researcher, Leilani Sáez, Promoted to Research Assistant Professor

September, 2016

The University of Oregon recently recognized Dr. Leilani Sáez’s contributions to research and practice with a promotion to the Research Professor ranks. “The promotion marks an important milestone for Dr. Sáez here at UO in that it moves her to the most prestigious of trajectories available for career NTTF research faculty,” explains BRT Co-Director Julie Alonzo. “Leilani’s work as Principal Investigator on Project Iceberg and the pivotal role she has played in the development of the Learning Receptiveness Assessment, as well as her success publishing in peer-reviewed journals and presenting at well-respected research conferences were among the many reasons she was successful in being moved to the Research Professor ranks.”

Dr. Sáez obtained her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of California, Riverside (2004), with an emphasis in cognitive processing and learning disabilities. Her research focuses on the interaction between student cognitive functioning, classroom behaviors, and academic skill level contributors to learning difficulties. She has written and presented on reading skills development and measurement, and the impact of working memory functioning on achievement.

Prior to joining BRT, Leilani led the development of a K-12 comprehensive reading assessment system, instructed pre- and in- service K-12 teachers, and taught students with learning disabilities. Currently, she is developing a tablet-based Learning Receptiveness Assessment (LRA) tool designed to screen early risk for learning difficulties through a multi-time point measurement of emergent academic skills, learning-supportive behaviors, and working memory cognitive functioning. She is currently in the second year of a five-year OSEP-funded project using the LRA to develop implementation strategies and resources for facilitating data-based decision-making to prevent reading disabilities across the preschool-kindergarten transition.

“Leilani is one of the strongest project managers I’ve ever met. She is incredibly well-organized, detail-focused, and committed to quality,” adds Dr. Alonzo. “We are very fortunate to have her as part of the BRT team.”

Congratulations, Leilani, on your recent promotion! 

28629740513_a027efd219_zBRT Employee Receives Campus-Wide Recognition

August 26, 2016

Denise Swanson, BRT’s most senior employee, was one of only five people campus-wide to be awarded a 2016 Classified Star award in recognition of her outstanding service to the University of Oregon.

The Classified Star awards are presented by the Classified Staff Training and Development Advisory Committee in partnership with the Office of the President and Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and are intended to recognize classified employees who go “above and beyond” in their work at the UO. 

Denise’s nomination emphasized her leadership role in supporting a positive work environment in BRT as well as her long-standing contributions to the wider UO community through her service to the women’s basketball team and the care with which she helps ensure the BRT offices and the campus as a whole reflect positively on the University. “Denise is focused on doing her job really well and is always willing to step in to help on projects. She is my go-to person when it comes to getting detailed projects that require a lot of coordination done,” explained BRT Co-Director Julie Alonzo. “But what makes Denise really stand out is that she is also deeply concerned with making sure the work environment is supportive and positive. Whether it’s organizing a birthday celebration, hosting a baby shower, helping someone move, or rallying the troops to support other members of the BRT team when they are in need, Denise is always front and center, going above and beyond to help make BRT a really special place to work.”

In the decades in which she has worked for BRT, Denise has worn many hats, all of them well. Before online assessment became the norm, she was responsible for creating scan sheets to support three local school districts in their three-times-a-year assessment of all K-8 students in reading and mathematics and processing the students’ answer sheets quickly and accurately each fall, winter, and spring. When the easyCBM assessment system began to be offered to districts outside the local area, she headed up customer support for years, and she is still an integral part of the customer support team. Most recently, she has accepted the challenge of developing and maintaining websites for her research unit, including the main website, which provides an important introduction to the work being conducted.

“Denise is the GOAT [‘greatest of all time’],” enthused Research Assistant Professor Joseph Nese. “She always goes the extra mile to support everyone, both inside and outside the office.”

Research Associate Shawn Irvin added, “She’s simply an amazing colleague and friend—one of the best people at UO or anywhere else.”

Congratulations, Denise, on this very well-deserved honor!

U of O Recognition       College of Education Recognition

Raina_AwardBRT Projects and Personnel Manager, Awarded the U of O College of Education’s 2016 Officer of Administration Award

May 17, 2016
The award places Raina Megert in an elite group of University of Oregon employees who have been recognized for their outstanding service to students, the College, and/or state and community partners. Raina’s nomination mentioned the essential role she plays in the $12,000,000 National Center on Assessment and Accountability for Special Education (NCAASE), an IES funded center which has required her to work with personnel from four state educational agencies, a non-profit testing agency, Arizona State University, the University of Oregon, and individuals from across the country who serve as consultants or as part of an Advisory Board. In addition, her work managing the internal accounts at the University of Oregon, including assisting with financial tracking, intellectual property transfer and trademark agreements, and setting up and managing the financial arrangements for the easyCBM Deluxe Edition, released in the fall of 2015, was commended. Another area in which Raina’s work was lauded was the interaction between BRT and the Oregon Department of Education. The nomination letter noted that since 1999, BRT has been the primary test vendor for the state’s Alternate Assessment, a large-scale high-stakes assessment aimed ant including students with significant cognitive disabilities in statewide testing programs. The nomination form ended with the following paragraph:

“These three areas are only part of the story, as she is also critical in other research grants and work within BRT that reflect well on the College of Education. In summary, Raina Megert deserves recognition from the College of Education for her important administrative functions; she accomplishes them with proficiency and efficiency. She is positive with people, responsible in follow through, and one of the best ambassadors of COE to other offices in the UO as well as agencies across the state and nation.”

Raina Megert, from all of us at BRT, we send you a hearty congratulations on a well-deserved award!

Dan FarleyBRT Research Assistant Advances to Doctoral Candidacy

May 17, 2016
BRT Research Assistant Dan Farley, who heads up our work on Extended Assessments for students with significant disabilities, successfully presented his dissertation proposal on May 5, 2016. This is the next-to-last step in his journey toward earning the coveted Ph.D. in Educational Methodology, Leadership, and Policy from the University of Oregon. Dan anticipates defending his dissertation in 2017. His study will focus on modeling growth for students with significant cognitive disabilities (SWSCD). This is an area of study complicated by test scaling, missing data, group heterogeneity, and small sample sizes. In his dissertation study, Dan is proposing to address some of these challenges by modeling achievement and growth for students in multiple exceptionality categories while controlling for missing data and test switching patterns during multiple imputation. If growth variance is significant, he will use growth mixture modeling to determine whether there are homogeneous subgroups of students with similar intercept and growth patterns within the overall population of SWSCD. In addition, he will use students’ sex, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status in model building and to analyze class membership post hoc.

Dan’s recent publications include:
Tindal, G., Nese, J. F. T., Farley, D., Saven, J., and Elliot, S. (2016). Documenting reading achievement and growth for students taking alternate assessments. Exceptional Children, 1-16. doi: 10.1177/0014402915585492.
Saven, J. L., Anderson, D., Nese, J. F. T., Farley, D., & Tindal, G. (2016). Patterns of statewide test participation for students with significant cognitive disabilities. Journal of Special Education, 1-12. doi: 10.1177/0022466915582213.
Anderson, D., Farley, D., & Tindal, G. (2016). Test design considerations for students with significant cognitive disabilities. Journal of Special Education. 49, 3-15. doi: 10.1177/0022466913491834.

Congratulations, Dan!