Penn Graduate School of Education Finalizing $54M Grant to Evaluate National Reading Program

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Media Contact:Jill DiSanto-Haines | jdisanto@upenn.edu | 215-898-4820August 12, 2010

PHILADELPHIA — A planned $54 million Investing in Innovation federal grant will bring $4 million to Penn GSE’s Consortium for Policy Research in Education at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education to evaluate the effectiveness of a national program aimed at strengthening literacy among struggling first-graders in underperforming schools. Penn is part of a 16-university consortium working on this project.  The consortium will raise $9 million toward the $54 million total, and the federal government will provide the other $45 million.

Penn, along with 15 other universities involved in the project, is required to raise $9 million in matching funds, in order to secure the $45 million from the federal government.

Penn GSE faculty will collect and analyze extensive data on student performance, monitor the work of Reading Recovery teachers and track students’ long-term progress, as well as evaluate the implementation of the program in thousands of schools across the U.S.

Four faculty members from Penn GSE will evaluate the impact of scaling up the Reading Recovery program, a five-year project designed to provide long-term professional development for teachers who will work one-on-one for 30 minutes daily with young students to accelerate literacy development, enabling them to close the achievement gap.  It targets reading problems when they first become apparent, and the goal is to help bring the students up to speed with their fellow students in 20 weeks.

“According to the What Works Clearinghouse, the Reading Recovery program is the most effective early literacy intervention in existence,” Henry May, a senior researcher at the Consortium, said.  “Penn’s role in this project is to evaluate whether Reading Recovery continues to produce large and positive effects when we implement it on a really large scale.”

Reading Recovery teachers will interact with 90,000 students individually, but, through their broader work in other classrooms, these new teachers will have the potential to have an impact on nearly 450,000 young learners.

“Our team of researchers has the necessary experience in conducting large-scale field trials that is required to meet the rigorous standards of evidence established by the Department of Education,” May said.

May, along with another senior researcher from the Consortium, Leslie Nabors Olah, will serve as the co-principal investigators on this project, leading a team of 11 researchers in monitoring the students’ academic progress for five years.  Two senior faculty members, including GSE’s dean, Andy Porter, and Bob Boruch, will advise the research team.

Distinguished by its contributions to education policy, strong quality-control procedures and expertise in disseminating research products to policy makers and practitioners, the Consortium for Policy Research in Education’s researchers have extensive experience conducting experimental studies, large-scale experimental and quasi-experimental research, mixed-methods studies, qualitative case studies and multi-state policy surveys.

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