Toggle Search

New Iowa Reading Research Center Program to Address Need-Based Literacy Challenges

Teens at school

Students at four partner local education agencies will receive literacy instruction based on customized need-based improvement planning as part of the PROPeL initiative. 

January 23, 2017

Schools in Five Iowa Cities Selected for Customized Literacy Improvement Program

A new Iowa Reading Research Center initiative will provide expert training in literacy instruction, need-based improvement planning, and continuous support to four local education agencies in order to bring improved literacy outcomes for students facing multiple challenges.

The following partners were selected for the inaugural two-year cycle (2016-2018) of the Practitioners and Researchers Overcoming Problems of Literacy (PROPeL) program:

  • Fort Dodge Alternative High School
  • Midland Park School at Eldora
  • Grant Wood Area Education Agency Shelters and Detention Classrooms in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City
  • Waverly-Shell Rock Lied Center

As part of each partner agency’s or facility’s application to participate in PROPeL, the team presented a data-supported, practitioner-identified literacy problem related to students attending alternative schools and juvenile justice facilities. This was the focus of the inaugural cycle of PROPeL because the literacy difficulties of students who attend these facilities are at a crisis level both in Iowa and nationally. Alternative school students often have special needs including higher rates of poverty, disabilities, and school dropout. Research findings also have shown a strong correlation between poor literacy and involvement in the juvenile justice system.

“We are very excited to be working with each of the four partners selected to be a part of this endeavor,” said Deborah K. Reed, director of the Iowa Reading Research Center. “Each school has identified an important literacy issue affecting its students, and the potential outcomes are representative of the positive impact we can make when educators and researchers work collaboratively.”

The innovative PROPeL initiative is made possible by funding from the University of Iowa Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and the University of Iowa College of Education, which is the home institution of the IRRC.

In total, PROPeL has the potential of impacting more than 425 students across the four partner schools over the two years of the initiative.

“These students have experienced school failure and frequently have endured trauma in their lives,” Reed said. “They may have become disconnected from their schools in ways that make them appear not to care about literacy or overall achievement. However, through research with these students, we have found they care deeply about their learning. We are compelled to help these students and these school systems in Iowa that rarely receive opportunities for proactive help.”

The four PROPeL partners have formed local study teams of up to six individuals, and have conducted preliminary data analyses in order to identify a literacy problem that the facility or agency can influence. The program will include a May conference at the University of Iowa where practitioners will be taught various strategies tailored to their literacy problem. Following the conference, the IRRC will support schools in carrying out a literacy improvement plan during the 2017-18 school year. Student-and teacher-outcomes will be measured throughout the initiative.

In future years, the focus of PROPeL may change to other types of schools, different grade levels, or other literacy challenges.

Visit our PROPeL page for more information.

About the Iowa Reading Research Center: The 2012 Iowa Legislature established the Iowa Reading Research Center with the purpose of applying current research to the development of literacy across Iowa. The IRRC is action-oriented and initiatives include reading assessments, data reporting system, evidence-based interventions and teaching strategies, intensive summer reading program and parent resources and information (SF 2284.32).