Research and Outreach

A Phonics/ Decoding Intervention for Struggling Adolescent Readers
This study is aimed at evaluating the efficacy of a code based intervention with struggling adolescent readers. Multiple federal agencies (see those named in application) have clearly established priorities to collect evidenced-based, scientific research to identify literacy practices that both prevent reading difficulties and provide appropriate intervention for individuals with reading difficulties. The focus of most research efforts in the past 10 years has addressed the needs of young children. Adolescent literacy is a newly identified priority. Adolescents with reading difficulties are at risk for dropping out of school, social-emotional problems, and have little hope of obtaining more than minimum wage jobs. For many adolescents it is inability to understand the basic code of print (i.e., phonics) that impedes their growth. Traditional phonics methods used with younger children have not been successful with this population. This study is testing an intervention to teach phonics/decoding skills to adolescent readers that are reading significantly below their peers.

The WordWork Tutoring Project: Grade 3
The study is designed to reverse the trend of low performance in struggling readers. Our central hypothesis is that instruction that focuses on understanding the cognitive foundations of the English language in a high-powered intervention will reverse the downward trend of underachievement in reading and writing. To test this hypothesis, sixty third grade underachieving students are participating in a highly controlled experimental design validating the efficacy of the WordWork intervention. Students are tutored in decoding, spelling, and comprehension strategies. Pre-service teachers conduct small group tutoring sessions for one semester as a supplement to regular classroom instruction. Participating students will be followed in the three years after the completion of intervention to assess the long term impact of WordWork. Pre-service teachers will gain a deeper understanding of assessment and intervention with struggling students that will translate into better instruction in their future classrooms. This study advances our research agenda, and will enable us to pursue federal grants and to participate in the current No Child Left Behind efforts. The results of the study will contribute to the establishment of a regional center in reading and writing research.