News and notes from across the Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education

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U.S. News rates programs among best in nation

U.S. News and World Report published its annual rankings of the top graduate schools on March 19 and UW–Madison’s School of Education and many of its programs were again recognized as being among the very best in the nation.

2019 logoThe School of Education is tied with Harvard University for No. 2 in U.S. News’ 2018 Best Education Graduate Schools ratings. The University of California-Los Angeles holds the top spot. This marks the 19th time in the past 20 years that UW–Madison, which was tied for No. 3 last year, has maintained a top-10 ranking among all schools of education. UW–Madison is the only Big Ten Conference institution to crack the top 10 in the U.S. News rankings each year since 2010.

In addition to this overall rank, UW–Madison’s School of Education is also home to several of the nation’s most highly regarded specialty programs, including a No. 10 rating in Special Education.

Not all graduate programs are ranked by U.S. News each spring. For example, the Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education (RPSE) remains No. 1 in the Rehabilitation Counseling ratings, although U.S. News did not re-rank that specialty program this year.

“It is fabulous to again be recognized as one of the leading schools of education in the United States,” says UW–Madison School of Education Dean Diana Hess, the Karen A. Falk Distinguished Chair of Education. “Our excellence is rooted in our very talented, committed and accomplished faculty and staff, outstanding students, engaged alumni and backing from leadership across UW–Madison that provides us the support to do our best work.”

Bal receives AERA’s Review of Research Award

Aydin Bal was part of a team of scholars that earned a significant recognition from the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in 2017.

Bal, an associate professor with the Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education, received the Review of Research Award along with Alfredo Artiles and Sherman Dorn, both of Arizona State University. Together, the three authored the paper, “Objects of Protection, Enduring Nodes of Difference: Disability Intersections With ‘Other’ Differences, 1916–2016.”

This paper appeared in the Review of Research in Education in March 2016, and it develops a perspective on disability through an intersectional lens that’s grounded in a cultural-historical framework. The report discusses the ways in which disability is constructed and how this construction has changed over time from a category of oppression and exclusion to an identity that affords entitlements, programs and benefits.

The paper moves chronologically from before the early 1900s to the present day and is mindful to learners at the intersections of disability, race, gender and class. Ultimately, the paper explores the historical tension between disability’s use of a type of protection and its use as a bureaucratic mechanism embedded in unequal education.

AERA is the largest national interdisciplinary research association devoted to the scientific study of education and learning.

• Bal this past fall also delivered a keynote speech at the 10th Foro de Lenguas in Montevideo, Uruguay, organized by the National Administration of Public Education (ANEP). The meeting took place Oct. 13–14, and Bal’s trip was sponsored by the U.S. Embassy.

Bal additionally gave a workshop to teachers, researchers and policymakers at the Foro and at a high school, presenting the Learning Lab methodology he has developed at UW–Madison. The Learning Lab is a problem-solving process through which students, families, educators, policy makers and community members design culturally responsive systems to address disparities in educational opportunities and outcomes. The process is especially designed for those who have been historically excluded from schools’ decision making activities.

“The National Administration of Public Education has been interested in the Learning Lab methodology for adaptive and inclusive implementation of a national curriculum and building capacity in local schools for reciprocal and productive family-school-community collaboration,” Bal said.

Ruppar earns Early Career Publication Award
from division of Council for Exceptional Children

Andrea Ruppar received the Early Career Publication Award in November from the Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children.

Andrea Ruppar
The paper is titled, “Faculty Perceptions of Expertise Among Teachers of Students with Severe Disabilities,” and it was published in the journal Teacher Education and Special Education.

The paper was part of a larger project exploring perceptions about expertise for teachers of students with significant support needs.

Ruppar is an assistant professor with the Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education (RPSE). She co-authored the report with Carly Roberts (University of Washington) and Amy Olson (Winona State University), both of whom are RPSE alumnae.

Research that stemmed from this study included collecting data from teachers and administrators, and finding patterns in perceptions. Perceptions about students’ capabilities and potential were connected to perceptions about expertise for teachers. Those who focused on the students’ deficits viewed expert teachers as caregivers and protectors, while those who focused on students’ capabilities viewed teachers as having expertise in instruction and advocacy.

Ruppar connects these results to the common perception of special education teachers as “saintly” or “caring people,” and says they might reinforce assumptions that students with significant support needs are incapable of learning.

“I hope this work will help teacher educators to prepare teachers to work with students with significant support needs, and help inform the community that the best teachers of students with significant support needs aren’t caregivers or saints, but they build on students’ capacities with high expectations for success,” says Ruppar.

National Alliance on Mental Illness recognizes Meyer

Bob Meyer received the Government Service Award in May 2017 from the Wisconsin chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Bob Meyer
Meyer, who works with the Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education as a senior rehabilitation specialist, was recognized for his outstanding work as a trainer in the Individual Placement and Support Program (IPS).

Meyer supports Wisconsin’s IPS Program through a contract with the DHS Division of Care and Treatment Services. IPS, also known as supported employment, is an evidence-based employment model for individuals living with severe and persistent mental illness. Employment specialists help clients obtain competitive jobs. The goal is to help the client become as independent as possible. Research has shown the model to be effective for people with many different diagnoses, educational levels, and prior work histories, said the press release.

“Work is such a big part of everyone’s story and identity,” Meyer said in a NAMI Wisconsin news release. “Indirectly, I help individuals in mental health programs work toward finding their dream job.”

Meyer was nominated for the award by Kathy Rohr, the director of adult programs for the Family and Children’s Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

“Bob is the best trainer I’ve ever had,” she said in the news release. “Roll out of IPS in Wisconsin went so well in large part due to his diligent efforts. His work has impacted lives all across Wisconsin.”

UW–Madison honors Gonzalez with Outstanding Women of Color award

In a campus tradition dating back a decade, UW–Madison’s annual class of Outstanding Women of Color awardees were recognized at a reception on Feb. 22.

And among those being honored in 2018 was the Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education’s Taucia Gonzalez.

Taucia Gonzalez recognized
Taucia Gonzalez poses for a photo with School of Education Dean Diana
Hess (far right) during the Outstanding Women of Color recognition
reception on Feb. 22. Also pictured are Gonzalez's daughters, Jasmine
Thibodeaux (far left) and Mila Gonzalez.
Gonzalez is an assistant professor of special education who is a tireless advocate for individuals from marginalized groups on the UW–Madison campus and beyond. She regularly teaches courses that promote inclusive spaces for individuals from marginalized groups and challenges students’ assumptions about disability, culture and power.

In addition, her research brings to light and attempts to rectify the longstanding educational inequities experienced by students from marginalized groups, focusing primarily on those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Further, she provides monthly cultural competence and social justice training for area teachers and serves as the faculty liaison for a collaboration between the School of Education and Madison Metropolitan School District that aims to diversify the teacher workforce.

Since 2007-08, more than 50 UW–Madison women of color have been honored by their nominators and colleagues.

“We will continue to honor these women who emerge from an extremely talented and incredible field of nominees,” said Patrick J. Sims, UW–Madison’s vice provost and chief diversity officer. “The Outstanding Women of Color Reception is among the most joyous annual traditions on campus, where we give accolades to women who would never ask for praise, or place any condition on their above and beyond service.”

Leko returns to UW–Madison

Melinda Leko
Melinda Leko returned to the UW–Madison campus after spending the past three years as a faculty member with the University of Kansas’ Department of Special Education.

Leko previously was an assistant professor with UW–Madison’s Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education from 2009- 2014. Her research interests include: evidence-based practices in reading for secondary students with disabilities; special education pre-service teacher education; educator professional learning; and inclusive education.

Leko, who today is an associate professor with RPSE, authored the 2016 book, “Word Study in the Inclusive Secondary Classroom: Supporting Struggling Readers and Students with Disabilities.”