Neag Faculty Member Recognized with Promising New Evaluator Award

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Bianca Montrose-Moorhead gives her acceptance speech at AEA's national meeting.
Bianca Montrose-Moorhead gives her acceptance speech at AEA’s national meeting.

Dr. Bianca Montrosse-Moorhead, an assistant professor in Measurement, Evaluation, and Assessment at the Neag School of Education, was named the 2014 Marcia Guttentag Promising New Evaluator Award winner from the American Evaluation Association (AEA).

The AEA is the leading international evaluation association. This award is presented to a promising new evaluator during the first five years after completion of a graduate degree and whose work is consistent with the AEA ethical code of conduct.

“This is the association’s only early-career award, so it’s hard to overstate how much the award means to me. Needless to say, I’m very grateful,” Montrosse-Moorhead said.

Montrosse-Moorhead attributes her achievements to the “supportive environment and outstanding colleagues” at Neag.

“When I interviewed here, it was clear that this school, which already had an outstanding reputation, was continuing to push the boundaries of what is possible in education. I feel very fortunate to be able to contribute to such a legacy,” Montrosse-Moorhead said.

Early in her career, Montrosse-Moorhead noticed that there was still a lot of work to be done on the topic of evaluation quality. She began working in this area when she realized she could help the field of education move forward. Since then, her research has allowed her to examine this particular area, specifically how validity plays a role in the context of evaluation practice.

Since joining the Neag School of Education last fall, Montrosse-Moorhead has collaborated extensively with colleagues on evaluation and research proposals. She co-authored proposals that resulted in four projects awarded to Neag, totaling over $4 million in all. These projects span from the state level to the national level, and evaluate various teaching practices and programs across all ages and all subjects.

With financial support from the State of Connecticut, she is leading a statewide evaluation of Connecticut’s Pre-Kindergarten program, Montrosse-Moorhead said. Her team is comprised of five other faculty members from Neag: Tamika La Salle, Hannah Dostal, Shaun Dougherty, Jennie Weiner, and Jennifer Freeman.

On a national level, Montrosse-Moorhead and Suzanne Wilson, a Neag Endowed Professor of Teacher Education, received a grant from the National Science Foundation. Using this grant, Montrosse-Moorhead and Wilson hope to develop teacher and student measures, which are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards, for a middle school ecology unit,

“A portion of our work will also be centered on how best to capture how this unit differs from ‘business-as-usual’ in terms of how middle school ecology is commonly taught,” Montrosse-Moorhead said.

She is working with Del Siegle, Neag Professor in Gifted and Talented Education, and other professionals involved in the National Center for Research on Gifted Education at UConn to help identify components within gifted programs that are most related to positive outcomes among traditionally underserved students in terms of identification, persistence in gifted and talented programs, and improving academic achievement. She also works for Vanderbilt University as an external evaluator for one of its centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

“Certainly, it’s an honor to be trusted with evaluation responsibilities for significant federal investments,” Montrosse-Moorhead said.

With Neag assistant professor Jennie Weiner, Montrosse-Moorhead’s fourth and final project proposal provides evaluation services for a small non-profit that provides professional development training for veteran teacher leaders.

“My research has three main goals: to contribute new knowledge to the field of evaluation as a means to develop stronger evidence-based evaluation practices and theories, to advance knowledge of importance to the education policy community, and to contribute to help education move forward through the application of innovative evaluation methodologies,” she said. “My applied research includes assessing preschool through high school interventions, practices, and programs which are designed to promote social betterment and educational equity.”

“My hope is that this award allows me to contribute new knowledge to the field of evaluation, to continue to generate accurate, credible, and actionable knowledge to the national conversation about educational evaluation,” Montrosse-Moorhead said.

In addition to receiving the prestigious honor, Montrosse-Moorhead was recently asked to serve on the AEA Membership Survey Working Group, which is responsible for crafting and disseminating an association-wide survey instrument. Every couple of years, this survey instrument will provide information for decision making for association management and the AEA Board of Directors, Montrosse-Moorhead said.

This award recognizes individuals who demonstrate early career promise. As another nominee for the award said of Montrosse-Moorhead, “she has emerged as one of the new generation of leading evaluation scholars.”

“Those are the goals that have defined my past, and at least for the foreseeable future, will continue to guide the research I do,” Montrosse-Moorhead said.