Mensa Foundation Award Goes to Educational Leadership Studies Alum

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sep. 1, 2016) University of Kentucky College of Education alumna Susan McLaughlin-Jones, a science teacher at Lafayette High School, has received the 2016 Copper Black Award for Creative Achievement from the Mensa Foundation. This national honor included $500, a plaque and a medal, which were presented at the Aug. 22 meeting of the Fayette County Board of Education.

The Mensa Foundation judges were impressed with McLaughlin-Jones’ development of Culturally Engaging Instruction (CEI) — a successful teaching strategy to address pervasive achievement gaps among students from diverse backgrounds. The CEI model emerged from McLaughlin-Jones’ 2012 dissertation in the Department of Educational Leadership Studies (EDL) at the UK College of Education. It uses subtle cultural cues to improve student engagement. Field-tested in her classroom and around the school district, CEI has produced anecdotal, qualitative and quantitative results.

“The CEI framework allows educators to understand why best practices such as nurturing relationships, group learning and smaller learning communities matter so much in improving student achievement,” McLaughlin-Jones said. “I am grateful to Fayette County Public Schools (FCPS) for supporting my research and also to the individuals who have supported me — from proof-reading papers, being my sounding board, participating in the many projects I’ve initiated, and encouraging my relentless pursuit to improve schools for all students.”

Tricia Browne-Ferrigno, professor of educational leadership studies, was chair of McLaughlin-Jones’ dissertation committee.

“I witnessed her frustration with the status quo of pervasive achievement gaps in P12 schools and her deep rooted passion to assure all students learn,” Browne-Ferrigno said. “While conducting extensive literature reviews to develop her dissertation proposal, she conceived the concept of culturally engaging instruction (CEI), which bridges the chasm between theory and practice. She used CEI as the conceptual framework for her case study in an elementary school that had closed learning gaps across all student subgroups — despite student characteristics that are often cited as causes of students’ under achievement. She then began using CEI in her own high school science classes. When learning achievement improved for all her students, she created an action research laboratory at her school to engage her peers in studying the impact of using CEI in their classroom. When the collective findings revealed positive outcomes, she became an advocate for using CEI while disseminating results of her dissertation study and action research laboratory."

“Over the many years that I have known Dr. McLaughlin-Jones as she completed the UK principal preparation program and then the EDL doctoral program, I have watched her transformation into a recognized and respected educational leader. This recent honor is particularly gratifying because it honors her passion and commitment for student learning.”

McLaughlin-Jones earned her bachelor’s degree in physics from St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and her master’s degree and doctoral degree from UK. She has taught in FCPS since 1996 and at Lafayette since 2000. She is also youth coordinator for Bluegrass Mensa, a local chapter of Mensa International.

Adapted from Fayette County Public Schools press release:

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