AUSTIN, Texas—Five faculty members in the College of Education’s department of special education at The University of Texas at Austin will conduct four critically needed research projects over the next five years on language and literacy development for young Spanish-speaking children.
Funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, the $11 million effort will be partially shared by the five-member research team at UT Austin, along with other colleagues at the Houston Health Science Center, the University of Houston and California State University-Long Beach.
Dr. Sharon Vaughn, who directs the college’s Texas Center for Reading and Language Arts, will serve as principal investigator. Drs. Candace Bos, Alba Ortiz, Sylvia Linan-Thompson and Cheryl Wilkinson will participate as co-principal investigators.
As both the Mollie Villeret Davis Professor in Learning Disabilities and a center director, Vaughn has increased research funding for the Texas Center for Reading and Language Arts from its $1 million startup grant to more than $5 million annually in the last four years.
“What I am most excited about with this project is that English language learners will participate in an extensive and ongoing project designed to help us better understand how students who speak Spanish acquire literacy skills,” said Vaughn.
“These students have often been left out of early literacy programs,” she added, “and thus our specific knowledge about the ways in which they acquire literacy is less well developed than it is for monolingual English speakers.”
Much of the research focuses on monitoring 144 kindergarten through third grade classes from three geographic regions: urban Texas, border Texas and urban California.
“One of our four projects, which will be coordinated here at the College of Education, will address practices for preventing reading difficulties for students who are struggling with the acquisition of literacy skills,” explained Vaughn.
“We will be identifying students who are at-risk in terms of reading difficulties in the first grade, and providing extensive supplemental support in reading and oral language development in group sizes of three. Then we will follow the students through the third grade,” she added.
The UT Austin’s faculty research team will be studying the extent to which early and ongoing supplemental intervention influences later literacy and oral language development.
“I was particularly pleased to learn that Dr. Sharon Vaughn and her team will participate in the research following the award of this highly competitive national grant,” said Dr. Manuel J. Justiz, dean of the College of Education, “because it opens a totally new area of quality research and also meets a critical need for the schools of Texas.
“If we want all of our school children to be reading at level or above by the third grade, then we must fully understand the best instructional practices for our Spanish-speaking students too, in order to improve classroom learning and expand our continuing work on educational reform.”