August 22, 2006
For immediate release
Dr. Amanda VanDerHeyden, Assistant Professor in the Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology at the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education at UC Santa Barbara, was awarded the Lightner Witmer Award for exceptional early career scholarship in School Psychology at the recent American Psychological Association Convention in New Orleans. Currently there are only two Witmer Award recipients west of Colorado and both are on the faculty of the Gevirtz School – Drs. Shane Jimerson and VanDerHeyden. VanDerHeyden is only the third woman to receive this award since its inception in 1973.
VanDerHeyden’s research has largely focused on Response to Intervention (RTI) – a cutting edge method to determine whether students have learning disabilities. She has introduced and implemented strategies in several districts in three states working with school leadership to produce and promote sustainable system change by developing local capacity for data-based decision-making.
In a district in Arizona, this work resulted in a reduction in the number of students diagnosed with learning disabilities from 6% of the population to 3.5%. Further, use of RTI was associated with substantial learning improvements as measured by year-end state accountability assessments. This work was recognized by the US Department of Education (DOE) as a success story as one means to achieve the No Child Left Behind goals. The US DOE program Education News Parents Can Use highlighted the specific RTI method System to Enhance Educational Performance (STEEP) via national broadcast over PBS and The Learning Channel in 2003. The televised program won a broadcasting award and was re-broadcast again in 2005.
Dr. VanDerHeyden also consults with state departments and task forces to promote the use of data-based decision-making in schools and her work was cited in the recently re-authorized legislation governing the provision of services to children with disabilities in education (Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, 2004). She also recently provided a taped training on RTI that will be made available nationally to districts attempting to implement RTI.
Locally, VanDerHeyden has begun to implement STEEP, an evidence-based process that allows schools to systematically evaluate the achievement of all students, in the Santa Barbara schools with a plan to expand to other schools in the district this coming year. She is training several school psychology graduate students from the Gevirtz School to introduce RTI to a system and train a school psychologist to implement RTI effectively. This work will be the foundation for future research in early intervention, equitable and accurate screening, and effective intervention.
“It’s obviously a tremendous honor to be recognized by one’s peers,” VanDerHeyden says about receiving the award. “I think I have a very privileged window into teaching and learning and the opportunity to make a difference. I feel fortunate to work at a time when (unlike ever before) schools need to connect data and research to everyday instructional practices in the classrooms. The accountability movement has created the impetus for schools to focus on outcomes and equity and therefore has created opportunities like never before for children to succeed. It is and has been a tremendous privilege to work with schools to promote learning for all children and to believe that we are making a difference everyday.”
Dr. VanDerHeyden has authored 27 articles relevant to the field of education, including articles in School Psychology Quarterly, School Psychology Review, Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, Journal of Early Intervention and 7 book chapters. She was just named one of the most productive authors in school psychology from 1996 to 2005 along with Drs. Jimerson and Furlong, who are also on faculty in the school psychology program at the Gevirtz School (Volume 43 (6), 2006, Psychology in the Schools). Last year VanDerHeyden co-edited two special journal series and The Handbook of Response to Intervention: The Science and Practice of Assessment and Intervention.
[Interviews with Amanda VanDerHeyden are available; contact George Yatchisin at 805 893 5789.]