The University of Texas at Austin's Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk has been awarded a $20 million, five-year grant by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the largest ever received by the College of Education.
The grant will fund research projects that contribute to and support the IES's Reading for Understanding Research Initiative. The initiative's primary aim is to improve students' reading comprehension from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade. The Meadows Center will be targeting seventh through 12th grade learners.
Research teams of scientists will examine the underlying processes of reading comprehension and identify possible interventions that can improve comprehension; develop and test these interventions; and evaluate the impact of the interventions. Interventions may include instructional approaches that educators are using, curricula, technology and professional development that teachers are receiving.
School and district personnel will be invited to participate in order to assure that proposed interventions are feasible and practical for implementation within existing school structures.
"We have a fabulous team of outstanding researchers who will be studying the role of language development, memory, background knowledge and vocabulary in the development of instructional practices that will improve our understanding of reading comprehension in seventh through 12th grade students," says Dr. Sharon Vaughn, executive director of The Meadows Center, director of the Reading Center and principal investigator at The University of Texas at Austin for the Reading for Understanding Research Initiative.
The Meadows Center, which was created in 2008, generates empirically valid knowledge and resources aimed at reducing academic, behavioral and social risk in young learners, particularly those with disabilities. The center also collaborates with other disciplines at The University of Texas at Austin and with other programs, centers and areas within the College of Education, such as the Vaughn Gross Center for Reading and Language Arts.
"This is a historical moment for the College of Education -- we are very excited to receive this grant of $20 million from the IES, the most that has ever been awarded to one of our programs or scholars," says Dr. Manuel J. Justiz, dean of the College of Education.
"We're particularly pleased to have these resources go to research on reading comprehension and reading skills improvement. Students who do not have age-appropriate reading skills are not likely to enjoy academic success in any of their classes -- and if interventions do not occur, they will have limited job prospects as adults. Equipping teachers to nurture better readers is an absolutely critical endeavor."