SLPs Win Federal Grant for Research on Reading “Reading for Understanding” Initiative Comprises National Network of Six Teams School Matters
School Matters  |   August 01, 2010
SLPs Win Federal Grant for Research on Reading
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  • Susan Boswell, assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at
    Susan Boswell, assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at×
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Development / Research Issues, Methods & Evidence-Based Practice / Professional Issues & Training / School Matters
School Matters   |   August 01, 2010
SLPs Win Federal Grant for Research on Reading
The ASHA Leader, August 2010, Vol. 15, 7. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM2.15102010.7
The ASHA Leader, August 2010, Vol. 15, 7. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM2.15102010.7
The federal Institute of Education Sciences (IES) recently awarded $100 million in grants for a new Reading for Understanding research initiative designed to improve reading comprehension in students from preschool to high school. As part of this initiative, Laura Justice, a speech-language pathologist at Ohio State University, has been awarded a $20 million grant to lead one of six teams that will form a research network.
The IES, a part of the U.S. Department of Education, seeks to accelerate the pace of research over the next five years by putting together a mission team that will demonstrate the ability of researchers to solve a major problem: Why do so many children struggle to read for meaning?
“We know surprisingly little about how children understand what they read—and that’s where a lot of children seem to fail,” Justice said. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, one of three fourth-graders and one of four eighth-graders could not read at the basic level in 2009. These figures are not significantly better than the 38% of fourth-graders and 31% of eighth-graders who were below the basic level in 1992.
Dynamic Research
To address the national crisis in reading, the IES has formed the Reading for Understanding Network that will bring together more than 130 researchers representing linguistics, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, reading, speech-language pathology, assessment, and evaluation.
“It’s exciting, but a very ambitious effort,” Justice said. “This is very different from the way research has been done. The work of other teams may change the focus of our work. We’re doing science in a dynamic way.”
Earlier in her career, Justice received two grants from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation: Student Research Grant in Early Childhood Language Development (1998) and Research Grant for New Investigators (2000).
Reading for Understanding grants were awarded to five other research teams: the Educational Testing Service in Princeton, N.J.; Florida State University; the Strategic Education Partnership Institute in Washington, D.C.; the University of Illinois; and the University of Texas at Austin.
Distinct Team Focus
Each team will focus on a different age group in investigating the basic processes that contribute to reading comprehension and developing and evaluating instructional approaches, curricula, technology, and professional development to enhance reading comprehension.
The Ohio State team involves 14 researchers at five universities in the United States and the United Kingdom, including five other SLPs—Shelley Gray (recipient of a 1996 ASHFoundation student research grant) and Adelaida Restrepo, Arizona State University; Hugh Catts and Mindy Bridges, University of Kansas; and Tiffany Hogan (recipient of a 2007 ASHFoundation grant for new investigators), University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Representing SLPs
“We applied for the grant because speech-language professionals need to be represented in this network,” Justice said. Her team’s research will include two studies that investigate the language bases of reading comprehension in children 4 to 8 years old. A longitudinal cognitive study will assess the development of reading comprehension in 1,200 children over a five-year period and will fuel the design of intervention studies. In a parallel study, the team will test language-focused interventions and examine how these interventions promote the development of reading comprehension.
In addition to these main studies, researchers at Arizona State University will conduct complementary studies among Spanish-speaking English-language learners.
“We’ve developed prototype interventions that will focus on the full array of language interventions,” Justice said. “We looked at the usual skills that play a role in reading comprehension, such as vocabulary and phonological development, but we also will look at higher-level language skills, such as text-structure knowledge. Our goal is to develop a comprehensive intervention that teachers can use throughout the year to address language skills to improve reading comprehension.”
All six research teams have agreements to share data among all researchers, and the entire research network will meet four times a year. For more information about the project, visit the IES website (search “Reading for Understanding”).
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August 2010
Volume 15, Issue 10