For the second time in three years, a doctoral student from the school psychology program in the College of Education (COE) has won the Outstanding Dissertation Award from the American Psychological Association’s Division of School Psychology.
Nathan Clemens, who received his Ph.D. in school psychology from Lehigh in 2009, received the award recently for a study titled “Toward Consensus on First-Grade CBM Measures,” which compared methods of identifying children at risk of developing reading problems. Clemens is now an assistant professor of school psychology at Texas A&M University.
The Outstanding Dissertation Award, which is given annually, recognizes one outstanding dissertation that has the potential to contribute to the science or practice of school psychology in the future.
In 2008, the award was presented to Milena Keller-Margulis ’08 Ph.D., who is now an assistant professor of educational psychology at the University of Houston. Her dissertation was titled “General Outcome Measures and Performance on High Stakes Tests: A Further Examination of Long-Term Predictive Validity in Pennsylvania.”
Edward Shapiro, director of the COE’s Center for Promoting Research to Practice and a professor of school psychology, was dissertation chair for Clemens and Keller-Margulis.
“This award was truly a great honor. It came as a surprise, because I knew there was a lot of outstanding work under consideration,” says Clemens, who also earned his master’s degree from Lehigh.
“The award is also a tribute to the mentorship I received while at Lehigh. Edward Shapiro and Lee Kern were instrumental in this role, and provided me with experiences that were invaluable in starting my career.”
Kern is Iacocca Professor and program coordinator for special education in the COE.
Clemens’ research interests include early literacy and academic skills development, and response-to-intervention in classrooms. At Texas A&M, he is continuing to investigate effective techniques for measuring early reading skills.
Clemens says there is a need to provide educators with simple, inexpensive measurement tools that can help identify children who may be at risk for difficulty learning to read.
“In my dissertation I compared two measures for identifying children in first grade who may be at risk for problems in learning to read, as well as for monitoring the growth of reading skills over time,” he says.
“The results indicated that a seldom-used measure of word-reading fluency was superior to a more widely used measure of basic early literacy skills. It is hoped that the results will help educators improve their practices in early reading assessment.”
The COE’s school psychology program is “state of the art,” says Clemens, and its multidisciplinary approach to education helps prepare students for success in the field.
“The faculty is internationally respected, and this has helped to open a lot of doors for me. Also, the fact that Lehigh’s school psychology program is so closely connected to the special education program creates unique learning opportunities and provides a well-rounded training experience.”