The University of Iowa

Completed Projects

Class and teacher outside posing

The following research and evaluation projects have been completed by the Iowa Reading Research Center.

Metropolitan Omaha Education Consortium and Early Literacy Instruction


Metropolitan Omaha Education Consortium


Spring 2019–Spring 2022

The goal of the project was to provide guidance and technical assistance to help participating metropolitan Omaha school districts improve early literacy proficiency. 
Implementation planning began in the spring of 2019. During the fall of 2019, school district educators completed the eLearning Effective Literacy Instruction module at their own pace. The Iowa Reading Research Center provided additional in-person professional learning to school district literacy leaders, who then supported educators as they implemented what they learned from eLearning. The same format was followed during the spring of 2020 when educators also completed the Small-Group, Skills-Based Instruction module. Implementation was more limited during the 2020–2021 school year as schools dealt with the pandemic. However, they remained committed to the work on early literacy and began planning to resume the project in the 2021-2022 school year.

Comparing Approaches to Scoring Student Writing

Partner School Districts

Council Bluffs Community School District

Marshalltown Community School District


Fall 2019–May 2021 

The goal of the project was to determine which approach to scoring students’ writing best predicts Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP) performance. The three approaches studied were:

  • district teachers who know the students
  • an electronic system
  • independent scorers at the Iowa Reading Research Center

The IRRC worked with literacy leaders in both districts to develop rubrics aligned to ISASP that also would include language from the way writing was being taught. Rubrics were specific to grade level and the writing genre required by the prompt (narrative, informational, opinion/argument). Teachers and the IRRC scorers used the rubrics to evaluate the students’ written responses, and those responses were scored by an electronic scoring system. In Marshalltown, the writing prompts administered to the students were developed by the IRRC and reviewed for cultural bias by district personnel. Students responded to three different prompts during the school year—in fall, winter, and spring. The electronic scoring system was freeware capable of assessing over 1,000 indices of textual complexity.

In Council Bluffs, the prompts were generated by a computer-based writing practice program the district was using. Students responded to two different prompts during the school year—December and May. The writing practice program also included an electronic scoring system with criteria similar to those on the rubrics.

Leavenworth and Atchison (Kan.) LiNK Evaluation

Partner School Districts

Leavenworth Unified School District 453 and Atchison Unified School District 409



The goal of the project was to evaluate the implementation of a birth through Grade 12 literacy initiative. 

As an external evaluator, the Iowa Reading Research Center collected and analyzed data related to four outcomes identified by the consortium:

  1. Impact on students’ literacy achievement
  2. Impact on teachers’ literacy knowledge and pedagogical practices
  3. Community outreach and participation
  4. Overall sustainability of the project

The Iowa Reading Research Center also monitored the consortium’s adherence to project goals, tracking the effectiveness of the different elements of the program, and providing data-driven guidance through the duration of the program. 

In addition, the Iowa Reading Research Center collaborated with the external evaluators of the seven other Literacy Network of Kansas consortiums to support the overall statewide evaluation of LiNK.

Implementing a Multi-Tiered System of Supports for Literacy Instruction in Middle Schools

Partner Education Agency

Grant Wood Area Education Agency



The goal of the project was to provide organizational framework for tiered literacy instruction in middle schools that addressed the focus areas of collaborative data review, reading strategies, and leadership for implementation. Grant Wood Area Education Agency also wanted an approach that could be differentiated and applied to a variety of middle school structures and needs. Iowa Reading Research Center Director Dr. Deborah K. Reed provided professional learning support and general consultation.

Green Hills Area Education Agency Literacy Professional Development Evaluation

Partner Education Agency

Green Hills Area Education Agency 


2018–2019 & 2019–2020 school years

The goal of the project was to evaluate the effectiveness of the Green Hills Area Education Agency’s literacy support services for teachers participating in professional development and follow-up coaching on foundational skills instruction. The Green Hills AEA Literacy Team and Iowa Reading Research Center created a protocol for teacher observations and collection of fidelity of implementation data. The Iowa Reading Research Center analyzed data from classroom observations and student test scores. 

Sioux City Community School District Small-Group, Skills-Based Literacy Instruction Elementary School Implementation

Partner School District

Sioux City Community School District


2016–2017 and 2017–2018 school years

The goal of the project was to implement small-group, skills-based literacy instruction in its elementary schools. Iowa Reading Research Center Director Dr. Deborah K. Reed provided professional learning on small-group, skills-based literacy instruction and a 21-day phase-in model. The Iowa Reading Research Center analyzed student test data to determine the effectiveness of the small-group, skills-based literacy instruction delivered by teachers.