The National Institutes of Health has awarded researchers at The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk and Boston University a $2.9 million, 5-year grant to investigate practices for improving reading comprehension and reducing reading anxiety of fourth- and fifth-grade students with reading difficulties.
The grant will allow MCPER Executive Director Sharon Vaughn and Amie Grills of Boston University to build on their previous research investigating the relation between reading difficulties and reading anxiety and approaches to improving reading performance and reducing anxiety. Their previous research demonstrates a high prevalence of anxiety among children experiencing reading difficulties. To address this problem, Grills and Vaughn conducted a pilot study examining the effects of a reading intervention program that featured strategies for reducing anxiety. Their research findings provide preliminary evidence that significant reductions in anxiety occur when students receive anxiety-management instruction within a reading intervention.
Over the next 5 years, the researchers will further develop and test an integrated approach in a randomized clinical trial with students in Texas and Massachusetts. Students randomized to receive the intervention will participate for 2 consecutive years beginning in fourth grade. Instructional practices for reducing anxiety will focus on three core areas: (1) recognizing feelings and understanding how thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are related; (2) practicing various relaxation and stress-management skills; and (3) recognizing anxious and unhelpful thoughts and changing them. These practices will be embedded within reading intervention lessons found in previous studies to improve student decoding and reading comprehension outcomes. The project team will evaluate the effects of the reading and anxiety practices by examining student performance on reading and socioemotional measures.
“This is a very exciting opportunity to conduct a relatively unique approach to better understanding whether we can both reduce anxiety and improve reading outcomes for students with significant reading problems," Grills said.
For more information about this project, visit the project webpage.
Project STRIVE making an impact on Texas teachers and students
November 2, 2016
MCPER’s Strategies for Reading Information and Vocabulary Effectively (STRIVE) project is collaborating with school districts in Central and South Texas to provide professional development and research-based instructional materials to fourth-grade teachers.
Over the course of the large-scale, 3-year research study, more than 200 fourth-grade teachers from more than 80 schools will receive training on practices to improve reading and social studies knowledge, reaching more than 5,000 students.
To date, fourth-grade teachers from 25 elementary schools have attended interactive training on the STRIVE lessons in preparation for implementing the practices in their classrooms this year. Anchored to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), the STRIVE lessons incorporate evidence-based reading practices targeting reading comprehension, vocabulary, and social studies content knowledge. In addition to the initial training, STRIVE teachers participate in several follow-up study team meetings to reflect on and discuss instructional practices.
Teachers are beginning to see the fruits of their labor. "I am already seeing positive changes in my students," said Emi Anderson, a fourth-grade teacher at Hirsch Elementary School in San Antonio. “The program has improved their ability to share and constructively question their classmates' ideas. My students are using the STRIVE reading and collaborative learning skills in other subjects, too."
Building on a prior Institute of Education Sciences Goal 2 intervention development grant, MCPER researchers will measure and compare the effects of STRIVE relative to a control condition to examine the efficacy of the professional development. The large number of students participating provides strong statistical power and reliability.
In the meantime, those involved with the program suggest that STRIVE is having a positive impact. "There is really a positive buzz about STRIVE in San Antonio ISD,” said District Administrator Ramses Escobedo. “The teachers participating in the project have said it is going well, and additional schools have asked to participate in STRIVE next year."
For more information, visit the STRIVE project page.
The Targeting the 2 Percent project has developed two series of resources to develop educators’ instructional effectiveness with students with learning disabilities and difficulties.
The project created a set of mini-lessons structured around the five essential components of reading instruction that can be used with students in kindergarten to grade 5 whose data show a need in a specific component.
Also, professors and researchers in the field wrote 11 research briefs to support evidence-based instructional practices. Topics include the five essential components of reading, grouping practices, peer supports, instructional considerations for dyslexia, English language learners, and literacy instruction for students with autism.
For more information and to download the mini-lessons and research briefs, which were developed with the support of the Texas Education Agency, visit the Targeting the 2 Percent project page.
Eunsoo Cho, a postdoctoral fellow in MCPER's Reading Institute, has been honored as the lead author of a prestigious journal's best research article of 2015.
"Cognitive Attributes, Attention, and Self-Efficacy of Adequate and Inadequate Responders in a Fourth-Grade Reading Intervention" won the Samuel A. Kirk Award for 2015, which recognizes the best research article in the journal Learning Disabilities Research & Practice. Cho's co-authors included MCPER researchers Garrett Roberts and Philip Capin, Associate Director Greg Roberts, Executive Director Sharon Vaughn, and Jeremy Miciak of the University of Houston.
MCPER's Sarah Powell won the Kirk Award in the practice category.
The Texas Education Agency and The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk are conducting a survey to learn more about teachers’ perspectives on the literacy development of all learners and preferences for professional development. The information gathered will guide the development of training modules and classroom resources designed to assist teachers in the transition from state assessments based on modified standards to the general state assessment, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR®). More information on this initiative is available on the Targeting the 2 Percent project webpage.
Educators who work with students in grades kindergarten to grade 5 are encouraged to complete the short survey.
To ensure that we hear from as many stakeholders as possible, we also ask that you forward this message to other possible participants.
Colleen Reutebuch, a director of MCPER's Reading Institute and principal investigator in the Language for Learning Institute, has been selected to attend the 2014 Summer Research Training Institute on Cluster-Randomized Trials from July 7 to 17 in Evanston, Illinois. The eighth annual event, hosted by the Northwestern University Institute for Policy Research and supported by the National Center for Education Statistics, aims to "increase the national capacity of researchers to develop and conduct rigorous evaluations of the impact of education interventions. The course sessions will provide intensive training on planning, implementing, and analyzing data for cluster-randomized trials," according to the event website.
Congratulations and best of luck to Eric Oslund, postdoctoral fellow in MCPER's Reading Institute, who has accepted an assistant professor position at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. Oslund will begin his work in the interdisciplinary Ph.D. in literacy studies program within the Department of Elementary and Special Education on August 1.
Tags: Reading Institute
MCPER congratulates and wishes the best of luck to Farah El Zein, Audrey Leroux, Kristie Metz, and Michael Solis as they begin new positions at universities across the country and a research center overseas.
El Zein, a graduate research assistant with MCPER's Autism Spectrum Disorders Institute, has accepted a senior research associate position at the Awsaj Center for Education Research and Development in Doha, Qatar. Leroux, a graduate research assistant with the MCPER Reading Institute, has accepted an assistant professor position at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Metz, a former graduate research assistant with the Reading Institute, is completing her internship and will begin a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Solis, also a researcher with the Reading Institute, has accepted an assistant professor position at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
MCPER's Lisa McCulley recently answered a request to lead a workshop in California on how to implement the research-based strategies developed as part of the Promoting Adolescents' Comprehension of Text (PACT) project—and the response has been very positive.
"You were a sensation," wrote Dr. Ruth Nathan, chair of McCulley's sessions from October 18 to 20 at Asilomar 62, an annual conference held in Pacific Grove, California. "And not only because of the thoughtful PACT protocol that you so beautifully took us through, but for your 'boots on the ground' knowledge that brought research-based and proven practice to teachers tired of being lectured to, teachers tired of Ivory Tower expertise with little classroom experience being forced on them in daylong workshops...and tired because so many of them have too many students (some as high as 39) in their very diverse classrooms. What a breath of fresh air!"
Conference organizers in California learned of the PACT intervention and its proven effects from "Improving Reading Comprehension and Social Studies Knowledge in Middle School," a paper in Reading Research Quarterly detailing a study that the What Works Clearinghouse recently found to "meet evidence standards without reservation." Nathan requested someone with teaching experience and work in the classrooms involved with PACT to lead four sessions and an "Around the Hearth" discussion. McCulley fit the bill. Before joining MCPER, McCulley was a secondary language arts and reading teacher for 21 years. For PACT, she both develops the intervention and supports teachers.
For more information, visit the PACT project page.
MCPER researcher Nancy Scammacca Lewis, Associate Director Greg Roberts, and Executive Director Sharon Vaughn, along with University of Houston colleague Karla Stuebing, have published an update to their wide-ranging meta-analysis of interventions for struggling readers. "A Meta-Analysis of Interventions for Struggling Readers in Grades 4–12: 1980–2011" will appear in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Learning Disabilities. Currently, the article is published online. In the new publication, the authors expand their 2007 review to include studies published from 2005 to 2011, finding considerably smaller mean effects. The authors attribute the decline in effect sizes in part to "increased use of standardized measures, more rigorous and complex research designs, differences in participant characteristics, and improvements in the schools' 'business-as-usual' instruction that often serves as the comparison condition in intervention studies."
Tags: Reading Institute