In the state of Colorado, licensed school psychologists are required to have an EdS or a PhD degree. Previously, an EdS in Child, Family and School Psychology was thought to be a terminal degree, but what happens when those licensed school psychologists with an EdS want to pursue further education? In 2008, Karin Dittrick-Nathan, Director of the Child, Family, and School Psychology Psychoeducational Clinic, and Gloria Miller, Professor and CFSP Program Coordinator, created a program that fit the needs of working professionals with an EdS to advance their degree to a PhD; the Pathways program in Child, Family and School Psychology was born offering an opportunity unique to MCE.

Dittrick-Nathan expresses her excitement about the program’s success: “It has been gratifying to see these individuals that have been in the field and love it so much, that they are at a point where they want to increase the contribution they are making to the field: either in research, or an administrative position in a district, or coming into academia to pass along the experience that they’ve had as practitioners.”


Through MCE’s 52 credit hour Pathways program, school psychologists with an EdS degree can get a PhD in 2-7 years, depending on full-time or part-time enrollment. Students work closely with an advisor and take a flexible array of advanced courses in child and family studies, family and systems service delivery, organizational management, research and program evaluation, and policy development that are designed to develop expertise that is matched to individual interests and proficiency.

The unique program was created for working professionals, offering a flexible class schedule and coursework plan that is individualized to put the students’ research InContext with their professional career. Each student declares a research cognate, or area of specialization, which helps to pair up MCE faculty and students with similar research interests. Research topics currently taking place in MCE’s Child, Family and School Psychology department include: learning styles for students with special needs, behavior or learning disorders, early language literacy, school and family engagement, play therapy, and bullying, among many others.

Students interested in applying for the Pathways PhD program must have graduated from a NASP program accredited within the last 7 years, and must hold a professional license as a school psychologist. Please contact MCE’s Office of Admissions for additional information and instructions on how to apply.

Question: What brings 23 educators and administrators from across Colorado together to embark on a 4-year educational journey?

Answer: A unique EdD program at MCE that helps meet Colorado’s needs in Gifted Education

A unique EdD program at MCE that helps meet Colorado’s needs in Gifted Education

A new cohort began summer 2021 for a select group of students pursuing an EdD in Gifted Education. “We were intentional to make sure that we were including representatives from across the state,” states Dr. Norma Hafenstein, the Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair of Gifted Education and founder of the Ricks Center for Gifted Children. “As funding decreases across varying local districts, the need for advocates for Gifted Education is even greater. To have professionals with a formal doctoral level degree doing research in districts across the state will enhance gifted education and have great impact on those communities.”

Morgridge College of Education is unique in its commitment to and support of gifted education. MCE offers a full-service model for gifted education, from teacher training in specialized degree programs, to the research and outreach of the Office of the Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair of Gifted Education, to direct service to the community through the Ricks Center for Gifted Children.

MCE’s Gifted Education EdD program in Curriculum Studies and Leadership is unique in that the cohort is a blended model of distance education and on-campus learning. The cohort comes together for summer classes at the University of Denver’s campus while, during the academic year, the classes are held online so that students of the cohort can maintain their professional positions in districts across the state and nation. Classroom and online learning are applied  to each student’s experience and career, as students are encouraged to conduct doctoral research that implements change and solves educational issues within their practicing districts.

With support from the Bradley Foundation, Dr. Norma Hafentstein and her colleagues, Bruce Uhrmacher and Richard Kitchen, will be documenting the growth and impact of the Gifted Education Cohort and at the end of the program, they plan on publishing the collection of doctoral research projects to learn about the various topics in Gifted Education that are impacting the entire state. “We look forward to seeing the impact at the end of the program”, Hafenstein stated.

In the few years the Gifted Education Cohort has been in session, the students, ranging from those who have been teaching for a few years to several decades, are impressed with their program choice:

  • “The classes have taught me a tremendous amount of knowledge that will go with me forever;”
  • “I am eager to share what I’ve learned with my partners back in my Gifted Education offices;”
  • “Thank you for helping me realize why I am in this field and providing such a fabulous opportunity.”

Morgridge College of Education offers several EdD tracks for educators and administrators who have a Masters degree and are looking to pursue further education. Concentrations are available in Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, and Higher Education. Please contact the MCE Office of Admissions to learn more about programs and how to apply.


The Early Childhood Leadership Commission recently named new members, appointed by Governor John Hickenlooper, to their groundbreaking organization. Doug Clements, PhD, Morgridge College of Education Professor, Kennedy Chair and Executive Director of the Marsico Institute, was selected to serve as a Representative of Foundations and Non-profits on the 3-year-old committee with the mission to improve outcomes for young children ages birth to eight.

“I was delighted to be invited to join this committee, which is doing such important work for the young children of our state. Colorado is far ahead of most other states in bringing together the diverse organizations, institutions, and individuals concerned with early education and helping them combine their forces and visions to support the development and education of all young children.”

Colorado is a national leader in early childhood education and has been cited for exceptional work in the update to “From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development” sponsored by the National Research Council (of the National Academy for Science).

Colorado has established a network of 30 local early childhood councils serving 55 counties to collaboratively plan, network, develop resources and implement early childhood initiatives at the community level. The aim is to materially improve the quality of, and access to, services for young children and their families.

“I had read that update to From Neurons to Neighborhoods,” remembers Clements, “ just before our research team moved from New York state to Morgridge College of Education here at the University of Denver. I saw Colorado, in specific, mentioned as a national leader. That report and what I have seen firsthand, confirms my notion that the climate for innovative early childhood education is exceptional in here in Colorado.”

“Reclaiming School in the Aftermath of Trauma,” by Dr. Carolyn Lunsford Mears, recently won the 2013 Colorado Book Award in the anthology genre at the 22nd annual awards ceremony in Aspen. The award was given by the Colorado Humanities and Colorado Center for the Book, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress Center for the Book. Colorado awards recognize talented authors, editors and illustrators in the state.

Mears’ anthology is a collection of stories from people who have experienced traumatic events such as the Columbine shootings, September 11th attacks, and Hurricane Katrina. “It shows a real variety of experiences and relationships to different tragedies and different types of challenges, broadening the concept of trauma,” stated Mears. She goes on to explain, “I think it’s a book of hope, reconciliation, trials, and redemption. The contributors gave me their stories with the purpose of helping others; it is very much their experience, and I wanted their voices to be represented.”

Carolyn Mears, a Researcher, Adjunct Professor and Dissertation Advisor at Morgridge College of Education, is herself a Columbine mom whose son survived the tragic events on April 20, 1999. Her life was forever changed by the incident, sparking her desire to become knowledgeable about ways people cope with trauma and reaching out to affected individuals and communities through her books, presentations and consulting. Mears shares stories of healing to expand the base of knowledge around schools and communities that have experienced tragedy. Carolyn elaborates: “When someone experiences trauma, it becomes a part of their life story . . . who they are. Other people don’t understand what it is like, and because of what happened in my community and my research, I think I can help with that.”

Carolyn entered the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies PhD program at Morgridge College of Education specifically so she could design a course plan and an outcome that matched her passion, who she was, and what she wanted to do. Through the flexibility of the program and high quality of faculty, research and rigor, Mears conducted research for her dissertation, “Experiences of Columbine Parents: Finding a Way to Tomorrow”, winner of the 2005 AERA Qualitative Dissertation of the Year.

Through the innovative method she developed for her research, AERA recognized Carolyn’s work as having created a “distinctive qualitative approach” that brings the research to life, evoking deep understanding while addressing subjectivity and removing the researcher from the equation. “I try to be invisible,” Mears comments. In order to share her approach with others, she wrote“Interviewing for Education and Social Science Research: The Gateway Approach,” a finalist for the 2010 AERA Book of the Year Award. Carolyn Mears continued studying the aftermath of traumatic events and exploring the broader community implications, which led to publishing the award-winning anthology,“Reclaiming School in the Aftermath of Trauma” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

Reflecting on the impact of her work, Mears states: “There is a gift that can accompany the pain of trauma; it is an increased awareness for human life that resonates with all of humanity, that connects people in broadest and most personal sense, providing a deeper appreciation of how intimately connected we all are. My hope is that when people read this book, they understand more about themselves and the world we all live in, in order to help each other when the unthinkable happens.”

Mears continues to assist people affected by tragic events and speaks internationally about trauma and planning for recovery. She comments, “Schools are the place where we grow our future; when someone attacks a school, it’s an attack on our collective future.” She hopes her work will influence educators and community leaders to plan in advance for meeting the needs that accompany traumatic experience, both large-scale disasters and personal victimization. In every classroom and every school and every community in the world, there are individuals who have experienced traumatizing situations. By learning more about what this means, we can better know how to prepare and how to help.

Ken Wright has a background in education; as a physics teacher, Ken was inspired to pursue his doctorate studies at Vanderbilt. Shortly after finishing his PhD, he came to the University of Denver to work with leaders in the field of mathematics education for young learners. Over the last several months, Wright, a post doc at Morgridge College of Education, has dived into research that will likely transform the realm of mathematics in Early Childhood Education by assisting Douglas Clements and Julie Sarama in the NSF funded CREMAT research. Along with participating in powerful research, Wright recently received the honored Gordon Fellowship.

Through the CREMAT research, Wright works alongside Clements, Sarama and their colleagues to develop an adaptive test for early childhood mathematics by using statistical innovations and computer technology. This responsive test adapts to the way a child answers questions, gathering a richer set of information to build a profile about what the child conceptually understands rather than just scoring him/her on a numeric scale. The CREMAT will provide more thorough results in less time than current mathematics assessments while also giving opportunities for individualized teaching and learning to improve the areas in which the child is struggling. Wright, with others, has started gathering data for a baseline of results by administering the assessment, analyzing the assessment items and writing and rewriting the questions that are posed to a child to best determine his/her knowledge and skills. In Wright’s pilot testing, he has collected data from Fisher Early Learning Center and Cherry Creek Schools, while the team works to establish additional sites for further field testing.

Upon coming to Morgridge College of Education and working on the CREMAT project, Wright was awarded the Gordon Fellowship, which aligns distinguished scholars with mentors to further dialogue on the topic of educational assessment. “The Gordon Fellowship is an effort to bring assessment into coordination with teaching and learning, encouraging all Gordon Fellows to think as a society about how we’ve come to understand what children are learning, what they know and how they respond to it.” Wright states. Ken explains the importance of establishing proper assessments within the educational system: “It’s not an assessment unless you are taking that information and making it available to the student and the teacher in a way where both can adjust what they are doing.”

As a Gordon Fellow, Wright will use the CREMAT research experience to participate in a collaborative mentoring group, creating ongoing dialogue between the Gordon Commission’s experienced authors and an aspiring younger generation of scholars about adding new life and new ideas for improving teaching methods, assessments, and policy.

Colorado ranks 48th in the nation in college access for minorities; and even closer to home, the most recent academic research shows only 9% of ninth graders in Denver Public Schools (DPS) completed college within ten years. That’s where Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF) steps in. The mission of DSF is focused on promoting college access and success for DPS students, which in turn supports the Colorado education system and Colorado’s economy.

Since its establishment in 2006, Denver Scholarship Foundation has made tremendous progress in bridging the gap between high school and college by awarding scholarships to qualifying students, offering comprehensive college advising services, and partnering with colleges to support student success. In the seven years that DSF has been active, it has awarded over $17 million in scholarships to more than 3,300 DPS graduates. Eight out of 10 DSF Scholarship recipients have completed their program or are still enrolled in college, making progress .

Denver Scholarship Foundation and Morgridge College of Education are closely connected in that they share a similar vision of college access and success. This past academic year, Danielle Sulick, Assessment and Evaluation Manager at DSF and MCE graduate, was an adjunct professor for the Higher Education program at Morgridge College of Education, teaching a class on Access and Opportunity. As part of the class, students participated in internships and volunteer opportunities to see Access and Opportunity InContext with high school students in the community. Half of Sulick’s class volunteered at DSF on both the access and success sides of the organization – working in the High School Future Centers advising students on college preparation, helping process scholarship applications in the DSF office, supporting FAFSA workshops, reminding students about important deadlines, and helping to plan DSF events among many other tasks. Ellery Kendrick, Volunteer and Alumni Relations Coordinator, explains the importance of the organization and volunteer’s efforts: “DSF is positioned as a beacon of light at the end of the educational tunnel, showing DPS students that there is an organization that will help them go to college if they work hard; showing them that it’s possible.”

The Denver Scholarship Foundation supports students to pursue all paths of higher education, Danielle Sulick elaborates: “We aim to create a commitment between the student and our organization – providing scholars the opportunity to go to college and the support to succeed within their program. We have partnered with 20 colleges across the state and have set up a support system at each institution – ranging from scholar cohorts to DSF advisors on campus – we know what our scholars need and figure out spaces where DSF and each college campus can fulfill our scholars’ needs.”

Sarah Pfeifer, an MCE student and recent intern at DSF, was encouraged by the success of the organization and its scholars: “It’s amazing how it all comes full circle – DSF scholars come back to help out with the organization. It’s such a strong way to impact incoming scholars – to see this person, who was in similar circumstances, go through school, graduate, and come back to support the organization and its systematic relationships.”

DU’s Higher Education program plans to continue to develop this community partnership with DSF, expanding service learning opportunities and tying them directly to coursework. MCE’s Ryan Evely Gildersleeve and DSF’s Danielle Sulick are leading the efforts in strengthening the relationship between the two organizations. There are also plenty of opportunities for MCE students in other academic programs to volunteer and intern at DSF. For example, DSF has opportunities for the Research Methods and Statistics students to serve as program evaluation interns – analyzing the relationships and DSF support systems at partnering Colorado colleges and universities. Community partners like Denver Scholarship Foundation provide InContext opportunities for MCE students, alumni, and community members to gain real world experiences of College Access and Opportunity and to be agents of change within our local Denver community.

“Not all teaching situations are equal,” states Kent Seidel, Associate Professor at DU’s Morgridge College of Education, “kids do the work of learning and it is the teacher’s job to understand their students, understand what they need to learn and be responsive to support their students.” Seidel has been working alongside Kathy Green, Research Methods and Statistics professor, and Derek Briggs, CU-Boulder, co-principal investigators, and 13 additional faculty and graduate research assistants on an IES (Institute of Education Sciences) funded grant to investigate the relationships among student outcomes and teachers’ Core Competencies measured with surveys of new teachers, beginning teachers, faculty in teacher preparation programs, teacher classroom observations, and review of program documents. This three-year mixed-method, state-wide study involves surveys, observations, and data from 1,200 novice 3rd-8th grade teachers and their students with a specific focus on mathematics, reading and writing.

The United States has been chasing the achievement gap for decades, trying time and time again to create equal educational opportunities and promote academic success for all students from all backgrounds. “We are hoping that our research can help bridge a lot of those gaps, to do good, meaningful research on how to help kids who aren’t doing well in the system”, Seidel affirms. Even with current improvement efforts, evaluations, and assessments in place, there are a lot of disconnects in the current education system: disconnects between districts and schools, between schools and policy-makers, between teachers and administration and sometimes between teachers and their students. Seidel explains: “It comes down to alignment – we need to be effectively supporting our teachers to be prepared for all students, whether in a context that is a classroom of gifted learners, or English Language Learners, or any specific group of kids.”

By focusing their study on the Core Competencies of novice teachers, Seidel and his colleagues’ research is rigorous in looking at a full range of program and teacher variation, where much of earlier research focused on teacher effectiveness has included a limited sampling of  teachers, often selected as “high-quality” by principal referrals. The study of novice teachers takes into account teacher preparation programs, as well as students, classrooms, and other challenges. Seidel clarifies: “We are interested in improving preparation for teachers to be ready for the kids that they will be teaching, not to see which teacher prep program is producing more effective teachers. We are looking to find what helps [teachers] be as strong and effective as possible as early as possible – to understand what is necessary to help a teacher motivate and support every kid.”

Kathy Green, co-leading the measurement, data, and statistical analysis portion of the Effective Teachers and Effective Teaching project remarked, “The entire grant, from a statistical view, is measurement – validation and how you define what helps teachers be better prepared for students. We are working as methodologists sorting through massive amounts of data, looking at where these benchmark definitions hold true and understanding the context of school and how it relates to how to measure these things.” Green adds, “This first year has been very technical, developing pilot surveys and refining them and cross-analyzing them across multiple sources. We are looking at a lovely trove of data: survey data from multiple groups, quantified document review, and observational data, linked to student achievement data.”

With more than a year and a half left in the research study, results are only in early preliminary stages. Stay tuned to see the findings of this groundbreaking research and the possible effects it will have on changing the scene of education.

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