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UH Collaborates with Four Universities on $20M Grant Research Could Develop Approaches to Improve Reading Comprehension in Grades 7-12

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September 14, 2010-Houston-

Thirty years ago the U.S. led the world in reading scores. Now, reading scores remain stagnant, leaving researchers to question why so many students have reading problems.

"We have done a lot of work on how to teach students in the early phases of reading acquisition, but we know a lot less about helping them develop comprehension skills, particularly as they get older," said Jack Fletcher, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor, department of psychology, University of Houston, and co-investigator on the grant titled, "Understanding Malleable Cognitive Processes and Integrated Comprehensive Interventions for Grades 7-12."

To address the challenges of reading comprehension among middle and high students, researchers from the UH Department of Psychology are teaming up with the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), Florida State University (FSU), Texas A&M University (Texas A&M), and University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHSC) on a five-year $20 million grant awarded through the U.S. Department of Education. The grant is part of the Institute of Education Sciences' (IES) Reading for Understanding Research Network Initiative to improve students' reading comprehension from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade.  

UH will receive $2.9 million of the grant over a five-year period for data management, analysis and measurement development, and training in support of research studies involving cognitive processes, and motivation in reading comprehension with secondary students.

"I am proud of the team of UH researchers who are working collaboratively with other institutions to bring together the best minds to address a significant problem in the U.S. with reading comprehension," said UH President Renu Khator.

"The U.S. Department of Education felt that the basic science was strong enough and developed in this area that we could actually make a difference," said David Francis, the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor, chair of the Department of Psychology and director of the Texas Institute for Measurement, Evaluation, and Statistics (TIMES). He and Dr. Fletcher are  the principal investigators for the UH section of the grant, which also includes Dr. Chris Wolters from UH Department of Educational Psychology, a national expert on student motivation and self-regulated learning, and Dr. Amy Barth, a Research Assistant Professor at TIMES with expertise in language development and disorders and their relation to reading.

"If we are successful at the end of five years, we'll be able to provide clear guidance to teachers and schools about cognitive and motivational processes that contribute to student reading, and that are amenable to intervention so that we can increase students' ability to learn through reading," Francis said.

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